Inflation is falling and the Middle East is at war but prices remain Americans' No. 1 issue

Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
October 20, 2023, 10:26 PM GMT+0

In the weekly Economist/YouGov poll that was conducted just before Hamas attacked Israel and set off a war, the issue top of mind for the most Americans was inflation and prices (shown in the poll as inflation/prices). It was named by 23% of Americans as the most important issue for them. None of 14 other issues was the most important for more than 11% of Americans. National security was the choice of 4% and less than 1% named foreign policy.

That didn't change in the latest poll, conducted October 14-17, 2023, despite the outbreak of war in the Middle East. Inflation and prices remain the number 1 issue for 20% of Americans, with no other issue above 11%. National security is the most important issue for 8% of Americans and foreign policy for 1%.

Official inflation measures have gone on a wild ride in the last four years: very low at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, way up in 2021 and 2022, and now declining, though still above pre-pandemic levels. The latest inflation report showed levels of price increases are well below the 2022 peaks. But Americans continue to say inflation is their biggest concern. Since inflation/prices was added to the list of issues Americans have ranked in the weekly poll in July 2022, it has topped the list every week.

Inflation's lock on the most important issue isn't simply because a dedicated minority of Americans is focused on it. While 20% say it is their most important issue, 74% say it is very important to them — more than for any of the other 14 issues.

Other poll results show inflation's importance for Americans. More than half of Americans (56%) say the best indicator of how the national economy is doing is the prices they pay for goods and services — and not the official unemployment rate, the stock market index, or their personal finances. By 52% to 3%, Americans say inflation is a more important problem than unemployment, with 40% saying the two are equal problems. And 59% say they have personally been affected “a lot” by inflation; just 5% say inflation has affected them “not at all.”

There is no consensus on which of the two major parties has the best plan for dealing with inflation. The Republican Party has a slight edge over the Democratic Party, but even more Americans either aren’t sure or say neither party has the best plan than say either party does.

The verdict is clearer on President Joe Biden's handling of the issue: 34% strongly or somewhat approve, while 56% disapprove.


See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on October 14 - 17, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (bodnarphoto)

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