What we’re worried about: Inflation and money, but not COVID-19, top U.S. concerns

Concerns about inflation and personal finances have surged while COVID has evaporated as a top issue for Americans, a new poll shows, marking an upheaval in priorities just months before critical midterm elections.

Forty percent of U.S. adults specifically name inflation in an open-ended question as one of up to five priorities for the government to work on in the next year, according to a June poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s a sharp rise from 14% in December and less than 1% the year prior. In all, 77% mention the economy in any way, up from 68% in December. But just 10% specifically mention jobs or unemployment, as U.S. employers continue to hire despite high inflation and weak economic growth.

Now, too, Americans increasingly call their personal finances a major issue: 44% mention it, up from 24% in December and 12% the year before. That includes more mentioning gas or energy prices (33% now vs. 10% in December) and food costs (9% vs. less than 1%).

Those shifts may be advantageous to Republicans as they campaign to win control of Congress in this year’s midterms; the economy has increasingly been a sore subject for President Joe Biden. Still, the economy isn’t the only issue getting more attention this year. Many also prioritize issues that are core to Biden and Democrats’ agenda, including abortion, women’s rights and gun policy, which could help Democrats as they try to pad — or at least protect — their razor-thin majority.

In a troubling sign for both parties, the poll finds many Americans say they think neither side of the aisle is better at focusing on the issues important to them or getting things done.

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