The importance of gas prices on the election

In the latest Elon University Poll, North Carolinians said that rising gas prices were their biggest worry. And Republican presidential candidates have made gas prices a campaign issue.

This morning, the New York Times reports that it isn’t a deciding issue to voters.

Gas prices influence voters indirectly, because rising prices can slow the pace of growth. But the influence is modest, because spending on oil and its derivatives makes up only a small part of the nation’s economic activity. Gas purchases account for less than 4 percent of household spending. Prices would need to increase by at least 28 percent to lift that share by a single percentage point. So far this year, they have jumped by 15 percent.

“Presidential elections are based on evaluations of presidential performance and on the performance of the economy. You can’t reduce that to one small issue,” said Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University. “Are gas prices part of the equation that people think about? They probably are, but only a small piece.”

— John Robinson

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