AP Poll: Economy, Inflation Americans’ Top Concerns, COVID-19 Takes Back Seat As Midterms Approach

A new poll finds that Americans’ political priorities have shifted away from COVID-19 related concerns and toward the economy, as the 2022 midterms begin in earnest.

The poll, conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that just 37% of Americans named the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the top 5 priorities they want the federal government to address in 2022, a steep drop from the 53% who named it a priority at the beginning of 2021.

By contrast, nearly twice as many voters saw the economy as a top concern, with 68% of respondents naming the economy as a priority. AP reported that number was about the same as last year, but anxiety about inflation has sharply risen — 14% of voters listed inflation as a priority concern, up from less than 1% in 2021. The cost of living also rose sharply as a priority, up to 24% from 12% last year.

AP notes that the poll was conducted in December before concerns about the Omicron variant took hold, but respondents, including self-identified Democrats, said in follow-up interviews that Omicron did not impact their considerations. Many of those polled told the outlet that they were optimistic after reports indicated that Omicron was less severe than previous variants of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 concerns taking a back seat to economic woes represents a critical challenge for the Biden administration, which came into the White House with a promise to “shut down” the virus, the AP reported. But the continued prevalence of the virus has “undermined the new president’s message,” the outlet remarked. The Daily Wire previously reported that Biden’s advisors have urged him to change his messaging on COVID-19 toward living with the virus, after he failed to follow through on his promise to bring an end to the pandemic. The report came shortly after Biden admitted in a conference with the National Governors Association that “there is no federal solution” to COVID-19.

The AP report coincides with tracking conducted by poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight, which found that voters’ approval on the administration’s handling of the pandemic has steadily declined since Biden took office. Biden’s approval on COVID-19 currently sits at 46.6%, with 45.5% disapproval.

The Biden administration also faces a significant uphill battle on economic issues themselves. A recent Fox Business poll shows that voters have “low expectations” of Biden’s ability to handle the economy. The Daily Wire reported:

According to the survey — conducted between December 11 and December 14 — 47% of Americans believe that Biden’s actions are “hurting” the situation, while only 22% believe they are “helping.” Likewise, 46% believe that Biden’s social spending plan would “push inflation higher,” while 21% believe it would “help lower inflation.”

“One thing the president has going for him is low expectations,” Democratic pollster Chris Anderson explained. “If the spending plans start to have positive impacts in people’s lives, maybe some will reconsider their view of Biden.”

Other insights from the poll show, from Fox News:

  • Two-thirds think Biden’s leadership is at least somewhat responsible for inflation — and about the same number blame regular economic cycles. Larger and roughly equivalent majorities blame the pandemic, government spending and regulations, and company price gouging. 
  • Rising prices over the last six months have caused financial hardship for two-thirds of voters. That climbs to three-quarters among those living in lower-income households. 
  • By more than two-to-one, people say the president’s economic policies have hurt rather than helped them personally. That’s largely driven by almost two-thirds of Republicans saying they’ve been hurt — nearly five times the number of Democrats who say the same. For comparison, one-third of Democrats said they had been hurt by former President Donald Trump’s economic policies in a December 2018 Fox News survey.
  • Just 1 in 6 voters say they are better off financially than they were a year ago, and a majority rates their personal financial situation negatively. That’s a reversal since August, when over half said their finances were in positive shape.

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