A national poll conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute concluded 78% Americans believe gas prices are very seriously or somewhat seriously impacting their quality of life.
Jerry Lindsley, director of the Polling Institute, thinks politicians should be wary. “Spiraling gas and home heating oil prices may be the ‘stealth issue’ that will impact the careers of incumbent elected officials in ’06 and possibly ’08 as much as they are impacting Americans’ quality of life,” he said. “With our survey showing the President’s approval rating down to 42% positive and recent ratings of Congress down to 29% positive — it may be ‘incumbents beware.’ Consumer anger may impact both political parties alike if they don’t get it together on this quality-of-life issue.”
Over half of those surveyed, 56%, indicated they will travel less this coming holiday season as a direct result of higher gasoline prices. In addition, Americans are using their credit cards to pay for gas much more frequently today than a year ago: 31% of respondents who have a car, truck or SUV said they are using credit cards to pay for gas more frequently today than they were one year ago as a result of higher prices – who carries that much cash around all the time?
Increasing numbers of Americans surveyed believe their next car will be smaller and more gas-efficient. Among those currently owning a car, 56% report their next car will be smaller and more gas-efficient, and 45% said they will consider a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, such as the Toyota Prius which now has a four-month waiting list for purchase. The latest Prius gets 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 mpg on the highway, according to the U.S. government.
John Gerlach, associate professor in the Economics and Finance Department at Sacred Heart University, said, “The new survey clearly shows that the continuation of high gas prices is forcing Americans to change their lifestyle. More of us are also planning to buy more fuel-efficient cars than was the case five months ago, and the sales of large SUVs have already declined from their highs of a year ago.
“This is not good news for U.S. auto makers,” he continued, “who have relied on the sales of these vehicles to offset losses on their automobiles.” He also mentioned home heating bills this winter as a potential cause of concern.
Researchers also asked respondents if they supported or opposed a number of possible strategies to reduce the impact of higher gasoline prices. A large majority, 80%, strongly or somewhat support allowing the Federal Government to permit new oil refineries throughout the United States as needed. 68% strongly or somewhat support allowing expanded drilling for oil in places such as Utah, Alaska and Colorado (ugh, pointless).
57% indicated they strongly or somewhat support lowering highway speed limits to 55 miles per hour (anything but that, please, time is precious).
However, 64% said they strongly or somewhat oppose adding 20 cents per gallon in Federal gasoline tax to support research on energy alternatives. We need much stronger leadership on this issue, which strikes me as the best longterm solution: even at 5 or 10 cents per gallon much could be accomplished.