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Rising Inflation Is a Top Policy Priority Across the United States

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By The VCU Wilder School Office of Research and Outreach
November 6, 2023

Inflation in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years, with the country experiencing annual inflation rates of 7 percent (in 2021), 6.5 percent (in 2022) and 3.7 percent (this year). In comparison, inflation rates from 2013 to 2020 ranged from 0.7 percent (in 2015) to 2.3 percent (in 2019). While the 3.7 percent of 2023 seems to put us on track for returning to previously lower rates, many individuals across the country are concerned about their current and future economic stability.

In order to get a better understanding of how members of the public feel about inflation and other current policy issues, the Summer 2023 Wilder School Commonwealth Poll asked participants “what is the most important issue facing Virginia today?”

More than one-third of Virginians (36 percent) said that they believe that inflation and the rising cost of living is the most important issue facing Virginia today, according to the poll. Other key issues noted by participants included education (18 percent), women’s reproductive rights (13 percent) and gun control (12 percent).

The Commonwealth Poll obtained landline and mobile telephone interviews from July 14-15, 2023, with a representative sample of 804 adults living in Virginia. It had a margin of error of 5.46 percent. Statistical results were weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. A two-stage weighting procedure was used to weight this dual-frame sample by the demographic characteristics of gender, age, education, race, ethnicity, Hispanic origin, region of residence and personal phone use.

Some of the demographic groups who were most likely to cite inflation and the rising cost of living as the most important issue were Asian respondents (55 percent), those who completed some college but did not obtain a degree (53 percent), Independents (47 percent), Republicans (45 percent) and those ages 18 to 34 (47 percent). Black Virginians were the only demographic group that said an issue other than inflation is the most important issue facing Virginia, with a higher proportion of Black respondents citing education (28 percent), followed by women’s reproductive rights (21 percent) and inflation (20 percent).

“Our recent Wilder School poll showed Virginians are concerned about the costs of living,” said L. Douglas Wilder, who served as the 66th governor of Virginia. “I’ve always had a one-word definition for politics—money—and the people are likewise focused on inflation and the skyrocketing cost of living.”

Economic concerns in Virginia are not new. In the Winter 2022 Wilder School Commonwealth Poll, which asked participants which issues were most important to them when voting for governor, the majority (30 percent) cited the economy as the most important issue behind their vote. We again saw that those with lower levels of education, younger individuals, Republicans and Independents were most likely to report that the economy was their top policy issue. Unlike in the Summer 2023 poll, however, the Winter 2022 poll found that white individuals were more likely to be concerned with the economy than racial and ethnic minorities. Education (21 percent), women’s reproductive rights (16 percent), the coronavirus (12 percent) and taxes (9 percent) were additional key reasons for voting.

In addition, public perceptions of the importance of addressing rising inflation are not limited to Virginia. In a May 2023 Gallup Poll, 61 percent of Americans said that their household has experienced economic hardship due to the recent increase in prices (up from 55 percent in November 2022 and 45 percent in November 2021, according to the same poll). An April 2023 Gallup Poll found that like Virginians, people across the United States saw inflation as the most important issue facing the United States today.

While it’s clear that inflation is a major challenge and key policy issue in Virginia and beyond, identifying the best way to mitigate inflation is less clear. At the federal level, inflation mitigation strategies have included:

  • The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which:
    • Provided initiatives to create jobs through climate change and clean energy investments,Promoted United States-based manufacturing efforts,Lowered some prescription drug prices and
    • Changed existing U.S. tax laws.
  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provided federal funding for roads, bridges, clean drinking water, high-speed internet and more.

By listening to the opinions of their constituents on the impacts of inflation and inflation-reducing efforts, consulting polls such as the ones referred to in this article, and staying up-to-date on economic trends, policymakers at all levels can better understand how to best mitigate inflation and ensure that the communities and individuals they serve remain fiscally strong.

Author: The Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy advances research and training that informs public policy and decisionmaking to improve our communities. Drawing on the wide-ranging expertise of Wilder School faculty, we provide services including leadership development and training, economic and policy impact analysis, survey insights and program evaluation to clients in governments, nonprofits, businesses and the public, across Virginia and beyond. Twitter: @VCUWilderSchool

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