“Yeah the economic situation is quite scary in the present,” said Steve Ryan who is an professional poker player and investor who lives within Las Vegas, Nevada. “Sometimes I’ll visit Costco (a bulk discount retailer) to fill up since I’ve noticed that it’s around 40 cents less for a gallon.”
“It’s an incredibly sad thing. … It’s extremely limited.”
In a period of high inflation for decades along with a housing slump and a volatile, largely declining market for stocks, Americans from coast to coast are worried about their finances and the health of their economy.
The upcoming U.S. midterm elections on November 8, voters could decide to voice their worries about their economy through the polls in the final decision of whether Republicans take control of both the U.S. House or Senate from Democrats and the political party that governs state houses across the nation.
In Connecticut the state of Connecticut, an Independent candidate Rebecca Urrutia, who has four children, has told VOA she’ll be voting using her pocket money in the state’s gubernatorial election.
“It cost us $40 to buy 2 quarts of soup at Panera [a chain restaurant] the previous day,” she said. “Grocery shopping can be difficult because certain products can go up 30% in cost. Dining out isn’t an option for us now.”
US personal savings rate is nearing the historic low
Urrutia is making accusations.
“I am adamant that our Governor [a Democrat”I blame our governor, a Democrat” she said. “He has led to our economy’s decline due to its response to pandemics, and due to his tax policies which have hampered small-scale businesses as well as middle-class families. The economy is sure to affect the way I vote.”
The issue of inflation is a major worry
According to an earlier Monmouth University poll, 82 percent of Americans believed that the rising cost of living was an “extremely or extremely important problem” that the federal government had to tackle. In the same survey, only 3 out of 10 Americans were satisfied with the work that President Joe Biden was doing to control the rise in the cost of living.
“The business environment is the biggest issue for many Americans during the current year.” stated University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, speaking with VOA. “How could it be otherwise? Every time they drive through the city they are amazed at how much the cost of gasoline has gone up.
Every time they stroll down the aisles of their grocery store and see how much the cost of milk has gone up. We’re in an inflationary phase that is troubling many since their incomes aren’t keeping up with inflation.”
U.S. consumer prices in August are 8.3 percent higher than the previous month. This was a decrease from a 9.1 percent rise in June, record-setting for four decades; however, it was still excessive.
For many Americans the price of gasoline is an important indicator for inflationary concerns. The recent announcement of production cuts through OPEC+, a group of 23 countries that export oil, could trigger prices for gasoline to increase once more after slowing in the last few months.
To curb inflation, the United States’ central bank has dramatically increased rates of interest, pushing down the majority of credit card holders as well as future buyers of homes.
“The economy is frightening me honestly,” said Keith Mott, an officer with the police department in Los Angeles, California. “Retirement plans have been hit hard and the increasing cost of everything is affecting the way we use our time.”
Mott added: “I’m not traveling as frequently, and I’m missing out on activities that I considered important. It’s affecting my private life.”
Ballot box impact
Experts like Bullock think that the economic situation is likely to have a significant effect on the next election. “The President’s party typically loses seats during an election that is midterm,” he explained. “Then it is the president’s popularity ratings and the economy that determines the number of seats they’ll lose. This year, I believe the economy will play a larger role than it usually does given how widespread this is.”
According to a recent Gallup poll that was released earlier this month 51 percent of Americans polled said they believe in Republicans more in the area of economics in comparison to 41% of those who stated they are Democrats. This is the largest gap Gallup has ever seen in the last 30 years.
The results of this election most likely determine the extent to which the president Biden is able to carry out major parts of his plans over the last 2 years remaining in his presidency. A Republican control of any chamber of Congress will make the passage of anything other than the broadest bipartisan legislation difficult.
For voters who are Republican-leaning, like Robert Ellis, a lawyer from New Orleans, Louisiana, stopping the President’s agenda might be a positive thing.
“The economic situation is my main concern at the Federal level,”” the president said “and this includes energy policy. Biden’s policies are a disaster, and the rise in the price of oil is directly related to his policies. We’re heading towards the Republican Party dominating the election due to this economic crisis.”
Priorities competing for attention
Although the current economic climate may not be favorable for Democrats however, the concerns of many voters go beyond their financial situation.
“There is something different with this year’s election.” Bullock said. “Republicans in states that are conservative across the nation are introducing laws that target abortions that are harsher than what the voters like.”
Bullock claimed that many conservatives were pleased to see strict abortion laws being enacted in various states following the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its famous 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that affirmed abortion rights across the country, many moderates, and even some conservatives have been irritated by laws in states that criminalize abortion.
Democrats are hoping that the enthusiasm sparked by the changes to the legal abortions in America will draw massive numbers of Democratic-leaning voters to the polls, and offer an opportunity to counter Republicans who claim to have advantages in economic issues.
“I typically base my vote upon social concerns,” said Alex Hamman who is an independent voter who lives in New Orleans. “I’m single, without children and don’t have any debt, so even though the economy is down my attention is focused on issues that impact my and other people’s freedom.”
Paige Benson, a public school teacher from Queens, New York, who usually votes for Democrats and was on the fence. Although the cost of gas and food are having a significant impact on her financial situation, she is also focusing on different issues at the polls.
“As a teacher and aunt, I’m horrified by what’s happening in the name of our right to privacy,” she said. “Women’s rights such as abortion are of course and educators in Florida having no ability speak to their students about issues that discuss homosexuality or the way our horrible gun laws have made schools feel unsafe, or the education policies in general. When I consider voting for our children, these are the important issues.”
Nobody knows what the interplay between social and economic issues will unfold in November 8 however certain polls suggest Democrats may not do so badly during Election Day as many analysts believed prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion in June.
A recent survey from YouGov for instance it found that 9 percent of respondents believe that abortion is their main concern — increasing from 4% year ago. The poll also revealed it was found that 75% respondents are planning for a Democrat.
“Is it going to affect the outcome of the election? Most likely no,” Bullock said. “But it may help keep the Democrats tight to the House and could even earn them a seat on the Senate. This could be a successful strategy.”
However, he said “the economy will continue to be the king of the world and there will be additional economic data to be announced in the next month. What is the best way to affect the outcome? Many things could still occur between the moment until Election Day.”