Driving Less, Hurting More

It’s a national tradition that Americans squeal like stuck pigs whenever gasoline prices go up. Coming atop the increases of the past few years, though, the most recent run-up does seem different in kind. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 77 percent of respondents said the recent increases have caused them financial hardship, including 51 percent who said it amounts to “serious” hardship.” The figures are all the more striking given that 55 percent of respondents said they’ve cut back on driving, up from the 42 percent saying so just a month earlier. Women are more likely than men to say they’ve taken this step (61 percent vs. 48 percent).

As you’d guess, the self-reported incidence of serious financial hardship due to gas prices is highest among lower-income respondents. Seventy-six percent of those with income under $35,000 said they’re suffering to that degree, as did 68 percent of those making under $50,000. But so did 38 percent of those making $50,000-plus and 27 percent of those in the $100,000-plus bracket.

The poll finds young adults especially hard hit, since they typically have below-average incomes and also tend to do above-average amounts of driving. Sixty-four percent of those under 30 said gas prices are causing them serious financial hardship.