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Gas prices are falling, but voters say they aren’t feeling the relief
Gas prices are finally falling around the country, but few voters say the lower prices are impacting their outlook on the economy, a worrying sign for President
ATLANTA — Gas prices are finally falling around the country, but few voters say the lower prices are impacting their outlook on the economy, a worrying sign for President Joe Biden as he seeks to turn around his sagging approval rating before the midterm elections.
In interviews with voters in Georgia, home to a competitive Senate race that could determine control of the chamber, many people said that while they noticed it cost less to fill up their gas tanks in recent days, they said it did not make up for how much money they were still spending on groceries, rent and other basic goods.
“I’m glad it’s no longer $5 a gallon,” said Stan Tucker, a 74-year-old retiree from Atlanta who voted for Biden in 2020. “But that’s not good enough. This can’t keep going on.”
Reggie Harris, 50, who also supported Biden, said it was finally costing him under $100 to fill up his car, but that wasn’t making up for the fact that he felt like his family’s grocery bill kept going up each week. “It feels like the middle class can’t catch a break,” he said.
Biden’s approval rating hovers around 39 percent — one of the worst ratings of a president going into their first midterm elections in decades — with polls showing inflation and gas prices as voters’ top concerns. In a New York Times/Siena College poll conducted this month, just 10% of respondents rated the economy as good or excellent.
Although gas prices have declined for more than 30 days straight, dropping on Friday to a national average of $4.57 per gallon, inflation has continued to climb at the fastest pace in 40 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Wednesday that the consumer price index was 9.1 percent higher in June than it was a year ago, with prices rising across key sectors of the economy.
Biden called the inflation report “out-of-date” because it did not reflect the recent decline in gas prices.
The minimal impact that voters say falling gas prices are having on their outlook of the economy highlights just how pressing of a challenge Democrats face as they try to hold on to their narrow majorities in the House and Senate amid looming concerns about inflation.
“People aren’t thinking ‘Oh wow, this is all over,’” said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, speaking of declining gas prices. “The Republican Party is pushing the message that the main concerns for Georgia voters should be inflation and the economy, and Democrats and Joe Biden are responsible for these problems.”
Biden has said that tamping down inflation, including lowering the price of gas, is his top priority. He has proposed continuing to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and he has encouraged oil and gas companies to increase production. He has called on Congress to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax as well as approve a trimmed-down version of his economic agenda — neither of which currently have enough support to pass.
Some voters said that the drop in gas prices had not changed their assessment of the economy because they were not convinced that prices wouldn’t spike again given the volatility of the energy market following the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, suggesting that voter opinions on the economy could already be hardened going into the midterms.