But if most people are not driving less now, that may change. Sixty-three percent say that if gas prices reach and remain at $3 a gallon, they'll find a way to cut back on their driving. Just a third says they'll continue to drive the same amount and just find a way to pay for it. Even in the highest-income households, half say they'd drive less at that price.
ECONOMY -- A large majority of Americans thinks that the high cost of gasoline has broader implications. Eight in 10 say they're worried that prices will seriously damage the country's economy, including about four in 10 who are very worried about it. The fact that 45 percent are spending less on other things could well have an impact on the economy, which is largely sustained by consumer spending.
Democrats are more concerned about the effects of gas prices on the economy -- 52 percent say they're very worried about it, compared with a third of Republicans. Broad concern is highest among Americans being hit the hardest: Two-thirds of those who say gas prices are causing them serious hardship say they're very worried about the economic impact.
HARDSHIP -- In terms of the effect of gas prices on their own financial well-being, Americans are divided. Fifty-three percent say the recent price increases in gasoline have caused them financial hardship, but that's down from nearly two-thirds in April. A quarter say gas prices are causing them serious hardship, which too is down, from a third. Then, gas averaged $2.24, close to a nominal high at the time. It's possible that spiking prices in the spring prepared, or at least conditioned, people for the higher prices they're facing now.
Women are 15 points more likely than men to be feeling the pinch, 60 percent to 45 percent. And people in the lowest-income households are twice as likely to feel hardship from gas prices as the highest-income Americans, 72 percent vs. 35 percent. Democrats are also feeling it more than Republicans -- 62 percent of Democrats say the higher pump prices are causing them financial hardship; fewer than four in 10 Republicans say the same.
CARS vs. SUVs -- Finally, despite their vehicles' lower fuel efficiency, SUV drivers are no more likely than car drivers to say gas prices are causing them hardship, to be driving less as a result of the high pump prices, or to be angry about them. The likely reason: SUV drivers are far more likely to be well-off financially than car drivers. The median income of an SUV owner is between $50,000 and $75,000, but between $35,000 and $50,000 for car owners -- meaning they may not dislike the high price of gas any more, but they are better able to afford it.
METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 18-21 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation was conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.
Effects of Gas Prices on Driving
|Now compared to a year ago|
|Driving more||14 %|
|Driving less||32 *|
|Driving same amount||50|