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
Posted in Economy
Tagged Gas prices
According to the Elon University Poll, North Carolinians are most concerned about these issues in order: the cost of gas, the national debt and the cost of health care.
Each provides fertile political talking points for Republican candidates, and they know it.
Cost of gas: The Republican National Committee sent out talking points instructing party faithful to take up the issue. House Speaker John Boehner urged his caucus to do the same. And, on Wednesday, the House energy committee obliged: The Republican majority called in a bunch of oilmen for a hearing dedicated largely to blaming President Obama for gas prices.
The national debt: Ron Paul ranks as the one candidate among four whose announced policies would leave America with a lower national debt than it would have under a status quo course, according to a new analysis.
Cost of health care: Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s main message to Republican voters in Huntsville Thursday was simple. “Obamacare is, in fact, the death knell for freedom, and that’s why it must be repealed,” Santorum told a large crowd at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center five days before the state’s GOP primary.
The poll results could give the candidates a guide to reassure North Carolinians about the plans for the future.
— John Robinson
Is there a more worrisome issue to North Carolinians than the price of gas?
The answer, according to the Elon University Poll, is no. When asked what issue concerns them the most, North Carolinians rank gas prices higher than every other issue, including the national debt and the cost of health care.
It makes sense, as people are reminded of the per gallon price each time they drive past a gas station.
North Carolinians aren’t different from their neighbors in other states. A recent Gallup Poll found that 85% of consumers want President Obama and Congress to address the price of gas. And to get it done yesterday.
It is a fertile political issue, and Mitt Romney is tuned into that. On Thursday, he said Obama has tried to shirk his responsibility for increases in the price of gas. “He says `it’s not my fault,'” Romney said during a campaign stop on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. “This is in part his fault. This is a guy who has slowed down … the licensing and permitting of offshore rigs, of onshore drilling.”
Despite Romney’s assertions, economists say there’s not much a president of either party could do about gasoline prices. The current increases at the pump have been driven by fears of a war with oil-rich Iran and by higher demand in the U.S. as well as in China, India and other quickly growing nations.
Consumers aren’t buying that explanation, according to Gallup. Only 31% of them said gas prices are beyond the control of Obama and Congress. The GOP is pinning the blame on the president.
For his part, Obama ordered his Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group back to work to get to the bottom of soaring gasoline and oil prices “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that consumers aren’t hurt by [gas prices],” Obama said at a press conference on Tuesday. He scoffed at the idea that any president running for reelection would want gas prices to go up.
— John Robinson