A third of all Americans say surging gasoline prices have caused serious financial hardship in their households, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with more than six in 10 reporting some pinch.
President Obama continues to be harshly reviewed for his handling of the situation, even as he eludes some of the direct blame.
Feelings of hardship and public judgment on the president are little changed over the past month, despite continually rising prices, suggesting some may be accommodating themselves to higher pump prices. The Department of Energy reports that over the past four weeks, the average price of a gallon has risen 11 cents to $3.94 across the country.
A year ago, the last time gas prices flirted with the $4-a-gallon-mark, more than four in 10 reported serious financial hardship as a result. And when gas did hit a record high of $4.01 in June 2008, more than half — 51 percent — reported a severe pinch.
Part of the difference this time, compared with previous run-ups, is that the current rise is built on top of previous spikes.
But another piece of the puzzle has more to do with partisanship than with pocketbook concerns. In the new poll, 27 percent of Democrats say their families are hard hit by rising gas prices, less than half the proportion saying so in 2008 when prices were similarly elevated. (Republicans are essentially unmoved.)
The political angle on gas prices extends beyond hardship to where people place blame. Obama is taking a beating in public opinion on his dealings with gas prices. Just 28 percent approve of the job he is doing in this area; 62 percent disapprove, with half saying they disapprove “strongly.” Those are among the worst ratings on any issue during his presidency.
As many Democrats strongly disapprove as strongly approve of Obama’s handling of the situation.
But when asked to consider the Obama administration against others, roughly equal numbers of all Americans point the finger at U.S. oil companies (28 percent) and other oil-producing countries (25 percent) as responsible for the current spate of rising prices. Slightly fewer, 21 percent, blame the administration.
In April 2005, more, 31 percent, blamed the Bush administration for a run-up in prices. As was the case then, today’s blame game is highly partisan. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats blame U.S. oil companies or oil-producing nations and just 6 percent single out Obama.
At the same time, 44 percent of Republicans blame Obama, 21 percent other oil-producing countries and just 9 percent domestic oil companies. (Some 17 percent volunteer that all are equally to blame). Independents resemble the public overall with fairly equal blame going to the three offered choices.
Republicans who blame Obama are nearly twice as apt to report severe hardship as those who place culpability elsewhere, 46 to 28 percent.
The poll was conducted April 5 to 8, among a random national sample of 1,103 adults. Results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.