Inflation is the ‘top problem’ facing America, with no other issue coming close, survey shows

A worker stocks items inside a grocery store in San Francisco, California, May 2, 2022.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amid swelling prices, most Americans see inflation as the biggest issue facing the country — far exceeding other concerns, according to a survey from Pew Research.

Some 70% say inflation is “a very big problem” for the country, followed by roughly 55% for health-care affordability and violent crime, based on a poll of 5,074 U.S. adults in April and May 2022.

However, responses varied by political affiliation, with 84% of Republicans and right-leaning independents saying inflation is the top issue. By contrast, 57% of Democrats and left-leaning independents were most concerned about rising prices.

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The findings come as inflation hovers near a 40-year high, with an 8.3% annual increase in April, slightly lower than the 8.5% growth reported in March.

Still, U.S. households are spending $341 per month more than a year ago, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics.

Lingering high inflation has prompted aggressive action from the Federal Reserve, approving a half percentage point interest rate hike in May, the biggest increase in two decades, following a quarter-point boost in March. The central bank also plans to reduce bond holdings starting in June.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he can’t guarantee a so-called soft landing for the economy — aiming for 2% inflation while keeping the labor market strong.

The central bank has faced criticism for not responding to inflation sooner. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke questioned the central bank’s delayed response in an interview that aired on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday.

“The question is why did they delay that. … Why did they delay their response? I think in retrospect, yes, it was a mistake,” he said. “And I think they agree it was a mistake.”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden also has faced blowback over continued inflation and plans to address the issue.

A Twitter exchange between Biden and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos began on Friday when the president tweeted: “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.”

Quoting Biden’s tweet, Bezos responded: “Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection.”

Bezos further criticized the White House’s strategy in a tweet on Sunday, saying the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law last March, contributed to the spike in inflation. He also commented how the rising prices are hardest on poor families.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg responded to Bezos’ criticism of the administration’s inflation policy on Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” 

“The president’s theory of the case when it comes to economics is probably never going to be wildly popular with billionaires for the simple reason that he is calling on them to pay their fair share,” he said.

“With the right kind of public investments, we can go after some of the things that we know are contributing to inflationary pressures,” Buttigieg added.

Sophie Tremblay

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