In President Biden’s State of the Union address, he acknowledged the problem that inflation is for many Americans. He said, “Inflation is robbing [people] of the gains they might otherwise feel. I get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control…. My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit.”

Progressive economist Paul Krugman has advocated that current inflation isn’t so bad but that the media’s focus on the topic has elevated the problem in the minds of the electorate. From the February survey for Winning the Issues (February 15-16), we asked voters whether they believed inflation was a serious problem or that media coverage was exaggerating the problem. By more than 3:1, voters across the board believed inflation is a very serious problem (72%) rather than stories about inflation are receiving too much focus by the news media to undermine confidence in the Biden administration (20%). Independents believed this 75-15 with a majority of Democrats also taking this view (59-33).

The electorate’s expectations about inflation are that the situation won’t turn around anytime soon. From the January survey for Winning the Issues (January 2-4), we asked people what their expectations were about inflation a year from now. Only 1 in 4 expect inflation to get better (25%) over the next year, with two thirds (66%) thinking it will stay the same or get worse. Among other key groups going into the midterm election, there is a similar outlook. Only 17% of independents think it will get better, as do only 1 in 4 (27%) middle income voters.

From a policy perspective, the White House intends to revisit proposals from the Build Back Better agenda as a way to lower costs. But with this voter belief system in place, the White House has an uphill climb ahead to effectively make their case.

Special thanks to Myra Miller, Senior Vice President of The Winston Group, for this contribution to The Blog.