Inflation and supply chain problems are fueling Americans’ growing economic concerns

December 10, 2021, 9:32 PM UTC

Americans continue to say the economy is getting worse. In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll 53% say the economy is getting worse, just one point lower than the highest level of Joe Biden’s presidency, last month.

Inflation appears to be driving the high level of economic anxiety. While 27% of Americans today describe unemployment as a very serious national problem, that is down by about half from January.

About twice as many Americans say inflation is a very serious national problem. The poll was conducted days before Friday’s report showing inflation was rising at its fastest rate in nearly four decades.

Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say inflation is a very serious national problem. There is little difference of opinion by family income level: 56% of people in each income level see inflation as a very serious national problem.

However, people at lower family income levels are more likely to say they feel the impact of inflation. Two-thirds of Americans with annual family incomes under $50,000 report difficulty in affording food, compared to a third of those with family incomes above $100,000. The less well-off have been more likely to have cut back in general.

Besides inflation, there is another major threat to the country’s economic well-being: supply-chain problems. More than three in five Americans (61%) say they have gone shopping for something this year and discovered that stores had run out. Similar proportions of people have reported shortages in both major political parties and in all regions of the country. However, a slightly higher share have reported shortages in the South and Midwest than on the coasts, and in rural areas compared to cities. 

What have stores run out of? Given the space to type their own answers, many respondents name food or specific food items, including milk, eggs, meat, Greek yogurt, and food for their pets. Cleaning products and toys also made the list. One of the most common missing store items is one that often goes missing in supply crunches: Nearly 50 different people in this poll named toilet paper as the commodity their store ran out of. 

Joblessness has waned as a source of economic concern. The official unemployment rate continues its decline. But that worries about the state of the economy persist. For some Americans, it may simply be that they don’t believe the official jobless numbers. A majority (53%) say there are more people out of work than the official figures suggest, and the people who say that are especially likely (67%) to say the economy is worsening.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between December 4 and December 7, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty