Americans are not just dissatisfied with the cost of gasoline, a sizable number are downright angry about it. And they might get madder still: Many are cutting back elsewhere to keep paying at the pump, and if prices hit $3 per gallon long-term, more than six in 10 say they'll have to reduce their driving.
The public in some senses is being quite resilient in the face of $2.61 gas, a nominal high for the national average. Relatively few -- 22 percent -- are driving less now because of the cost of gas, and about as few say they'll cut back on driving because of gas prices in the next few months.
Instead three-quarters of Americans say that to afford gas they're either spending less on other things (45 percent), saving less (21 percent) or increasing debt (10 percent). And while just over half say gas prices are causing them financial hardship, that's down from 64 percent in the spring -- an indication that many people are accommodating themselves to the situation.
That said, both apprehension and annoyance are running high. Eight in 10 are worried that gas prices could seriously damage the economy, including 42 percent who are very worried about it. Ninety-four percent are dissatisfied with the price of gas, and 44 percent are more than just annoyed -- they're angry about it.
ANGER -- The level of anger varies among groups. It's higher among Democrats (50 percent) than it is among Republicans (37 percent) Women are more likely than men to be angry (48 percent vs. 39 percent of men). And anger about pump prices peaks in the East, at 52 percent; it's lowest in the West, at 40 percent, even though the West consistently has the highest average gas prices in the nation.
Naturally, those who say gas prices are causing them serious financial hardship -- about a quarter of the public -- are by far the most likely to be angry: Sixty-eight percent are, compared with fewer than three in 10 of those who aren't facing hardship.
|Angry about price of gas|
|Income under $100,000||46|
DEALING -- But for now, most Americans are finding a way to pay. As noted, 45 percent say they're spending less on other things to free up more cash for gas, and about one in five are saving less. Another one in 10 says they've had to borrow more money on a credit card or use other borrowing.
Younger Americans and the less well-off are the most likely to say they're shifting spending on other items to offset the rising cost. Fifty-five percent of those under age 30 are spending less elsewhere, as are 52 percent of those in households earning less than $50,000. In contrast, just three in 10 of those in six-figure earning households have had to cut back spending. Instead, they're more likely to be saving less.
DRIVING LESS? -- Moreover, as noted, relatively few are cutting back on their driving. Overall, about a third say they're driving less now than they did a year ago, and just about two in 10 say that's because of the price of gasoline. Similarly, 23 percent of drivers say they'll drive less over the next few months because of the cost of gas.
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|