By Jeffrey Jones of Gallup
A majority of Americans, 56%, now say price increases are causing financial hardship for their household, up from 49% in January and 45% in November.
The latest reading includes 12% who describe the hardship as severe and 44% as moderate.
The results are based on an Aug. 1-22 web survey that interviewed over 1,500 members of Gallup's probability-based panel.
Although more Americans now than last fall say they are experiencing hardship, the percentage who are suffering severe hardship has held relatively steady at around 10%. Lower-income Americans are more likely than others to be experiencing severe hardship -- 26% of those whose annual household income is less than $48,000 say prices are causing severe hardship for their families. That compares with 12% of middle-income Americans and 4% of upper-income Americans.
Lower-income Americans are about as likely now as last fall to say they are experiencing either severe or moderate hardship -- 74%, compared with 70% in November.
Middle-income (63%) and upper-income (40%) Americans remain significantly less likely than lower-income Americans to say they are experiencing hardship. However, sharply more middle- and upper-income Americans are struggling now than were last November. The increase has been greater among middle-income Americans -- up 17 percentage points -- than among upper-income Americans -- up 12 points.
Reports of financial hardship also differ by partisanship. Republicans (67%) are far more likely than Democrats (44%) to say rising prices are hurting their families. Independents fall between the party groups, at 56%.
These party differences are consistent with Republicans' being more likely to mention inflation as the most important problem and to rate the economy more negatively than Democrats and independents do, likely because of the presence of a Democratic president in the White House.
Spending, Travel, Driving Cutbacks Most Common Response to Inflation
A new question in the survey asked those experiencing hardship to list some of the specific things they are doing to respond to the effects of inflation.
The most common action, mentioned by 24% of those experiencing hardship, is to reduce spending, including buying less in general or buying only essential items. Another 17% say they are traveling less or canceling vacations, while the same percentage indicate they are driving less or trying to use less gas.
Other common strategies for dealing with higher prices are buying cheaper goods or generic brands of products (12%), eating out less (10%), buying fewer groceries or growing their own food (10%), staying home (8%), and cutting down on entertainment expenses (8%).
Seven percent say they have tried to increase their income by working more hours, finding a second job or looking for a new job. Three percent say they are delaying medical procedures or appointments, and another 3% are delaying home improvement or maintenance projects.
Two percent each say they are downsizing or selling things they own, using savings, or using credit cards or loans. One percent are using food banks or applying for assistance.
Adults of different income levels are about equally likely to report taking the most commonly mentioned actions. However, upper-income people are more likely than lower-income people to say they have cut back on travel and eating out, perhaps because they are more likely to do those activities under normal circumstances.
With high inflation persisting for over a year, a majority of Americans now say they are experiencing financial hardship from higher prices. Lower-income Americans were mainly affected early on, but most middle-income Americans and a substantial minority of upper-income Americans are now feeling the strain of higher prices.
To address the hardship inflation is causing them, Americans are largely making sacrifices by buying less, cutting back on discretionary spending and cutting back on recreational activities. Some have resorted to more significant measures such as finding another job, incurring debt, postponing medical care or applying for assistance.