How gas prices are affecting Americans
Bob Moon: It’s time now for our weekly Attitude Check. Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport joins us now, as he does every Thursday. And today, he’s got gas prices in focus — and maybe $4 a gallon isn’t so bad after all. Good morning, Frank.
Frank Newport: Good morning.
Moon: So, when it comes to tipping points for consumers, is five bucks the new four bucks?
Newport: It sure looks like it. That’s what we’ve found when we ask Americans. And this is very, very important in terms of price sensitivity: what is the price of gasoline at which you would significantly alter your lifestyle; and at which you would have to significantly cut back in spending in other areas.
And the answer was $5.30 and $5.34. So it certainly looks to us like — and we’re nowhere near an average of $5.30 a gallon — but it would need to be up to that price before we’d really see, as you say, a tipping point where a lot of Americans had to alter their behavior.
Moon: And who do Americans blame for these gas price increases?
Newport: Historically, it was the oil companies, the oil companies, and the oil companies. But recently, in the last couple of weeks, Pew Research asked just that question — who do you blame? — open-ended question. And nobody got most of the blame. Obama got 18 percent; the oil companies 14 percent; the situation in Iran and the Middle East 11 percent. Speculation — which Obama mentioned in his press conference the other day — only about 4 percent. So there was no one villain that’s getting all the blame at the moment.
Moon: Well, no matter who they blame, is this something that should keep President Obama awake at night as the election nears?
Newport: Boy, he should lay awake at night hoping that the price of gasoline doesn’t get to $5.30. How’s that? Because we know, obviously, in a re-election year, people’s perceptions of the economy — how the economy’s doing — will affect his chances of being re-elected. And as we just talked about, if the price of gasoline gets to that price, it could affect his re-election chances. But at the moment, the last time I saw the average price was $3.70, $3.80 — so we’re far away from that at the moment.
Moon: Five bucks would sure keep me awake. Frank Newport is Gallup’s editor-in-chief. Thank you so much for joining us.
Newport: My pleasure.
News and information you need, from a source you trust.
In a world where it’s easier to find disinformation than real information, trustworthy journalism is critical to our democracy and our everyday lives. And you rely on Marketplace to be that objective, credible source, each and every day.
This vital work isn’t possible without you. Marketplace is sustained by our community of Investors—listeners, readers, and donors like you who believe that a free press is essential – and worth supporting.