HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolinians are severely concerned about inflation – although maybe not as many of them as you might have guessed said gasoline prices had affected them heavily – and they know who and what they blame for those spiking costs.

Those were the findings of the latest High Point University Poll, which asked a broad cross-section of questions about concerns, issues and the factors responsible for raising them.

Nearly 7 in 10 respondents said inflation, education, jobs and health care are the most important issues they face, with inflation getting a clear 70%. Crime, corruption and taxes were listed by about 6 in 10, a release by HPU said.

“Inflation has become a top concern among citizens because of what has been happening in the economy,” Jerry Fox, interim chair for the Department of Economics, said in the release. “Annual inflation in the U.S. climbed dramatically from 2.7% to 8.6% [8.5% as of the latest report on Tuesday] over the past year from March 2021 to March 2022.

Rising gas prices affect about 57% of North Carolinians quite a lot. (HPU Poll)

“Interestingly, over the same time period, U.S. unemployment declined from 6% to 3.6%. Prices have shot up while joblessness has fallen.”

Gasoline prices are, of course, the most noticeable change in what we pay for day-to-day items. And although that picture has been getting better in the past couple of weeks, nearly 6 in 10 said those higher prices have affected their households a lot, and about 3 in 10 said at least a little. About 8 in 10 said they were paying a lot more for gasoline, and another 10% said prices were somewhat higher.

Most also mentioned the cost of meat (61%) and natural gas (50%), and others cited the prices of fruits and vegetables (43%), milk (39%), eggs (38%), electronics (37%), bread (36%), clothing (34%), water (30%) and toys (26%).

The poll surveyed 889 adults from all 100 counties between March 18 and March 31. The Survey Research Center provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence (plus or minus 3.3 percentage points).

And those surveyed were pretty clear about the persons or entities they blame for the high inflation, high gas prices and pretty much high anything: Russian President Vladimir Putin and the effects of his war on Ukraine and the COVID-19 and its effects on our supply-and-demand economic structure.

About 72% cited both Russia and the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for some or a lot of inflation, and about 2 out of 3 cited President Joe Biden’s policies. China (64%), the Federal Reserve (55%) and Republicans in Congress (54%) were seen as at least somewhat responsible. Biden, Russia and the pandemic were named by 4 or 5 in 10 as “a lot” responsible.

“We asked North Carolinians how the increase in gas prices are affecting their household, and a majority told us it has affected them a lot,” Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor, said in the release. “However when it comes to natural gas, these same North Carolinians said that if gas prices rise because the U.S. stops imports from Russia, a majority told us that it is worth the rising costs.”

About half the respondents said they think President Biden’s recent announcement that the U.S. will stop importing Russian natural gas and oil was worth the cost if prices increase.

The second tier of greatest concerns consisted of voting fraud (53%), COVID-19 (51%), race relations (49%), infrastructure (49%), voting suppression (47%), climate change (43%) and public transportation (39%).

Other findings

Would you say prices are much higher, somewhat higher, about the same as last year, somewhat lower, or much lower in price? (PRESENTED IN RANDOMIZED ORDER)

 Much higher priceSomewhat higher priceAbout the sameSomewhat lowerMuch lowerUnsure or don’t buy
Gas for your car79104215
Natural Gas501972122
Fruits and Vegetables433712215

Please indicate whether you think each of these people or things deserves a lot, some, not much, or no blame for current levels of inflation. (PRESENTED IN RANDOMIZED ORDER)

 A lotSomeNot muchNone at allUnsure
President Biden452214910
The COVID-19 pandemic38341189
Republicans in Congress2430191413
The Federal Reserve Bank of the U.S.233220619
U.S. consumers1732221712

How do you think each of these issues is in North Carolina today? Would you say very important, somewhat important, not very important, or not at all important? (PRESENTED IN RANDOMIZED ORDER)

 Very importantSomewhat importantNot very importantNot at all importantUnsure
Health care6722614
Voting fraud53221276
Race relations49271266
Voting suppression472311910
Climate change432914105
Public transportation39351557