Washington Nearly seven in 10 Americans are worried about maintaining their standard of living, as concern has spiked higher in just the past five months, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Soaring consumer prices are a major challenge, with many people struggling under the weight of the rising costs of fuel, food and health care.
The poll shows that the weak economy and rising prices are high among voters' concerns, and contribute to a souring national mood in this presidential election year. More than eight in 10 said the country has veered pretty seriously off-track, and a separate poll released Tuesday by ABC showed economic anxiety at its highest level on record since 1981.
Overall, 68 percent in the new Post-ABC poll said they are concerned about their ability to keep up their lifestyles, a jump of 17 percentage points since December. The increase cuts across party and income lines, spreading rapidly among Republicans, people from rural areas and those from middle- and upper-income households.
Nearly six in 10 of those from households with annual incomes of $100,000 or higher said they are worried about hanging onto their living standards, up from a third in December. And 56 percent of Republicans in the new poll expressed concern, up from 32 percent.
In the new poll, 20 percent of those surveyed cited the higher gasoline prices as their single most important economic issue, and more, about a third, pointed more generally to rising prices as the primary cause of apprehension.
Overall, two-thirds called rising gasoline prices a financial hardship, including a third who said higher pump prices have proved to be a severe burden.
"The $3.65 gas is killing us. The $2.75 gas was killing us. And, quite frankly, I don't see how the government can stand by and be completely idle and ruin the economy," said Tom Odle, 64, a Kansan who receives Social Security disability payments and whose wife works at a graphics firm. "What this is doing to us is to completely strip away our disposable income. It just goes for gas."