WASHINGTON—Inflation has emerged as a pressing concern for American voters, with majorities saying it is causing them at least some financial strain and is bound to get worse, a new Wall Street Journal poll finds.

Some 56% in the new survey said inflation was causing them major or minor financial strain, including 28% who said they felt major pressures. More than half said gas and groceries were among their greatest concerns when it came to rising prices, with about a quarter citing housing and utility bills.

The Wall Street Journal Survey

The survey helps to explain why voters believe the economy is headed in the wrong direction at a time when it is creating jobs—though at a rate below expectations last month—and while wages are rising and stock markets have made gains during the year. Inflation hit a three-decade high in October, with the consumer-price index rising in October by 6.2% from a year earlier. It was the fifth straight month of inflation above 5%.

Voters are feeling a sense of urgency, the new Journal survey found. Asked the most important issue for President Biden and Congress to address, about one-third cited an economic issue—more than any other subject—with 10% naming inflation. Some 52% said they expected the cost of living to worsen in the next year, compared with 23% who said it would likely ease.

The survey of 1,500 voters, conducted Nov. 16-22, found more than 60% saying that the economy was headed in the wrong direction, and about the same share rating it as poor or not good today.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell discussed in a Senate hearing the factors driving continued inflation and the risk the Omicron variant poses for the economy. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg News

Views were more tempered when voters were asked about their personal financial situation: Some 31% said they believed it would improve in the next year, compared with 24% who said it would get worse. Some 38% expected no change.

Inflation fears appear to be weighing on views of Mr. Biden and his party. Some 44% of voters said they believe Republicans can best tame inflation, compared with 26% who said Democrats would best control it. Mr. Biden’s job approval rating stood at 41% in the survey, with 57% disapproving of his job performance.

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Leaders in business and policy including John Anzalone and Tony Fabrizio discuss the topics that matter most to decision makers.

“Regardless of what the job numbers are, every day, as they’re living their experiences, people are seeing the effects of higher gas prices, higher prices at the grocery stores, all of that stuff,’’ said

Tony Fabrizio,

a Republican pollster whose firm conducted The Wall Street Journal’s poll jointly with the firm of Democratic pollster

John Anzalone.

“It may not be an existential threat, but they’re feeling the effects of this every day.’’

Mr. Anzalone agreed: “Inflation drives perceptions of the economy, because it’s something people deal with every day. It’s a daily pain and aggravation.’’

A plurality of voters, some 39%, said they believed Biden administration policies were the main cause of rising prices. A majority of Republicans and a plurality of independents held that view, while Democrats were more likely to pick other offered explanations: supply-chain problems, pent-up demand from the pandemic and corporations unnecessarily raising prices.

Thinking about you and your family, which of the following best describes your situation when it comes to the cost of living?

It’s rising and creating major financial strains

It’s rising and creating minor financial strains

It’s not a problem for me now but will become one if costs keep going up

I’m not concerned with the cost of living

Thinking about you and your family, which of the following best describes your situation when it comes to the cost of living?

It’s rising and creating major financial strains

It’s rising and creating minor financial strains

It’s not a problem for me now but

will become one if costs keep going up

I’m not concerned with the cost of living

Thinking about you and your family, which of the following best describes your situation when it comes to the cost of living?

It’s rising and creating major financial strains

It’s rising and creating minor financial strains

It’s not a problem for me now but

will become one if costs keep going up

I’m not concerned with the cost of living

Source: The Wall Street Journal Poll

Among those who said inflation should be the top priority for Washington to address, 70% said rising gas prices were their greatest concern.

The survey found two groups feeling the sting of rising prices acutely. Some 67% of voters with household income below $60,000 said they were feeling financial strains, including 42% who said the strains were major. Among voters without a four-year college degree, 61% said they were feeling at least some strains, including 34% who said they were major strains.

At this time next year, these issues will be:

At this time next year, these issues will be:

At this time next year, these issues will be:

By contrast, 48% in households above $60,000 and 47% of college graduates cited any kind of financial strain.

The survey is the first under a new polling program initiated by the Journal to explore the forces driving American politics. Surveys on the political landscape will be conducted by the firms of Mr. Anzalone, of ALG Research, and Mr. Fabrizio, of Fabrizio, Lee & Associates. In addition, the Journal will work with NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonprofit research organization, to conduct periodic national surveys on social and cultural issues.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How concerned are you about inflation? Join the conversation below.

Participants in the survey were drawn from a list of known, registered voters. Half the respondents were interviewed on their cellphones. One-quarter were reached by text on their cellphones and completed an internet survey. One-quarter of respondents were interviewed by landline phone. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Write to Aaron Zitner at aaron.zitner@wsj.com

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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