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Rising Prices Are Top Kitchen Table Worry

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021

Partisanship has more effect than income on driving negative trend

West Long Branch, NJ – Paying everyday household bills, and inflation specifically, top the list of concerns American families say they currently face, with the number saying it is easy for them to pay grocery bills dropping by 13 points in the past two years. The latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds nearly half the public feels federal government actions have made things worse regarding their top household concern, although the downward trend on these issues is driven more by partisan identity than by income level. Other poll results show that Joe Biden’s spending plans remain popular even though the president himself is not.

About 3 in 10 Americans name either everyday bills (15%) or inflation specifically (14%) as the biggest concern facing their family right now. This far outpaces Covid (18%) or any other single issue as the top kitchen table worry in the country. This past summer, far fewer Americans named either rising prices or household bills as their biggest concern (16% in July 2021) and the amount of concern over household bills was even smaller just over a year ago (8% in August 2020).

“Concerns about inflation have taken center stage in discussions around America’s kitchen tables. And, as one would expect, many are placing the blame squarely on Washington,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Regardless of which issue they name as their top concern, nearly half of the public (46%) says that concern has been hurt by federal government actions since the beginning of the year. Back in July, 34% felt that the federal government had hurt their family regarding their top concern at that time. The largest jump in those saying they have been hurt by government actions has been among Republicans (up 24 points to 82%), while there has been less movement among independents (up 6 points to 47%) and Democrats (up 3 points to 10%).

The number of people who say their family’s top concern has been hurt by the federal government is higher now than at any point during Donald Trump’s administration (which ranged from 37% to 42% between 2017 and 2019) and nearly matches the first time Monmouth asked this question during Barack Obama’s presidency (47% in January 2015). The number who say their family’s top concern has actually been helped by the federal government stands at 25%. While this is down from July (31%), it is similar to poll results from January 2017 (27%) and higher than other polls taken during both the Trump and Obama years (14% in 2015, 2018, 2019).

The number of Americans who say it is at least somewhat easy for them to pay their grocery bills (56%) has dropped by 13 points in the past two years (69% in May 2019). This shift is far greater than declines in reported ease of paying for health care deductibles (down 6 points to 42%), taxes (down 6 points to 45%), paying for housing (down 6 points to 40%), and paying for health insurance premiums (down 1 point to 46%).

The biggest drop in self-reported ease in paying grocery bills is actually related more to partisanship than income. By household income level, the number of people earning less than $50,000 who say paying for groceries is easy for them (44%) has dropped by 10 points in the past two years. It declined by 16 points among those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (59%) and by 11 points among those making $100,000 or more (72%).

Looking at partisan shifts, however, finds just 43% of Republicans who say it is at least somewhat easy for them to pay grocery bills – a dramatic plunge of 38 points from May 2019. In comparison, the shift among other groups has been relatively minor – down 10 points among independents (57%) and up 7 points among Democrats (67%). Put another way, two years ago Republicans were 21 points more likely than Democrats to say that paying grocery bills was easy for them. Today, they are 24 points less likely.

“There has always been something of a partisan divide on the question of making ends meet based on who controls the White House. But the huge shift in this poll, driven mostly by Republicans, begs the question of whether we are measuring the primacy of partisan identity more than an accurate self-assessment of economic conditions at home,” said Murray.

Turning to Washington, the president’s large spending plans remain broadly popular.  Support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure deal (BIF), which was signed into law last month, stands at 66%, similar to November and down just a few points from prior polls. Support for the Build Back Better (BBB) plan to expand access to health care, college, paid leave and other services remains fairly steady at 61%. Furthermore, 56% of Americans support the climate change funding part of the BBB bill (compared with 60% in November). Partisan support for each of these three spending elements stands at 92%-95% among Democrats and at 56%-67% among independents. Republican support, however, ranges from only 12% to 31% depending on the particular spending element. Compared with Monmouth’s poll last month, Democratic support is stable, Republic support has declined for all three spending elements, and independent support varies across a slightly wider range depending on the specific spending element.

The public is divided on whether significant reductions made to the BBB plan’s size during negotiations between Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration are a good thing (41%) or bad thing (45%). Most Republicans (55%) see these cuts as good and most Democrats (63%) see them as bad. These results are basically unchanged from last month.

The BBB bill was passed by the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. Just over 1 in 4 Americans (28%) say that enacting this into law should be Congress’s top priority. One-third (33%) say that this legislation is important but there are more pressing matters for Congress to address, 9% say it is not really important to take up this bill right away, and 26% are opposed to its passage at all.

“Popular, but not a priority. One of the political problems with Biden’s spending plans is that they don’t seem all that relevant to the vast majority of Americans,” said Murray.

Biden currently holds a job performance rating of 40% approve and 50% disapprove. This marks another downward tick in his approval number since hitting 54% in April, before dropping to 48% in June, 46% in September, and 42% in November. The percentage of Americans who say the country is headed in the right direction (30%) is similar to poll results from the fall, although this metric reached as high as 46% early in Biden’s term (April 2021).

The poll also finds the public’s job performance rating for Congress stands at 23% approve and 66% disapprove. Congressional approval has ranged between 18% and 23% since the summer, although it did register as high – “high” being a relative term – as 35% approval in April.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from December 2 to 6, 2021 with 808 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.Do you approve or disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing as president?

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Approve40%42%46%48%48%54%51%54%
Disapprove50%50%46%44%43%41%42%30%
(VOL) No opinion11%9%8%8%9%5%8%16%
 (n)(808)(811)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)

2.Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Approve23%18%22%23%21%35%30%35%
Disapprove66%70%65%62%65%56%59%51%
(VOL) No opinion11%12%13%15%15%9%11%14%
 (n)(808)(811)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)
  TREND: Continued
Nov.
2020
Early
June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020

Dec.
2019

Nov.
2019

Sept.
2019

Aug.
2019

June
2019

May
2019

April
2019

March
2019

Jan.
2019
Approve23%22%32%32%20%24%22%23%21%17%19%20%24%23%18%
Disapprove64%69%55%55%69%62%65%64%68%71%69%71%62%68%72%
(VOL) No opinion13%9%13%13%11%14%13%13%11%13%12%9%14%9%10%
 (n)(810)(807)(808)(857)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Approve23%17%19%17%18%21%16%17%18%19%19%25%23%
Disapprove63%69%67%71%72%68%65%69%69%70%68%59%66%
(VOL) No opinion14%14%14%12%11%11%19%15%13%11%13%16%11%
 (n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedSept.
2016*
Aug.
2016*
June
2016*
March
2016
Jan.
2016
Dec.
2015
Oct.
2015
Sept.
2015
Aug.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Jan.
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Approve15%14%17%22%17%16%17%19%18%18%19%21%18%17%14%
Disapprove77%78%76%68%73%73%71%71%72%69%71%67%70%73%76%
(VOL) No opinion8%9%7%10%10%10%12%11%11%12%10%12%11%11%10%
 (n)(802)(803)(803)(1,008)(1,003)(1,006)(1,012)(1,009)(1,203)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,003)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

3.Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Right direction30%31%29%38%37%46%34%42%
Wrong track66%64%65%56%57%50%61%51%
(VOL) Depends1%2%4%3%3%2%4%3%
(VOL) Don’t know3%3%2%4%3%2%2%4%
(n)(808)(811)(802)(804)(810)(800)(802)(809)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Right direction26%27%22%18%21%33%30%39%37%37%
Wrong track68%66%72%74%74%60%61%54%57%56%
(VOL) Depends4%4%4%5%4%4%5%4%6%6%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%3%1%3%5%3%1%1%
(n)(810)(867)(868)(867)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Right direction32%30%30%28%31%29%28%29%35%35%40%33%31%37%
Wrong track56%61%61%62%62%63%62%63%55%57%53%58%61%57%
(VOL) Depends8%7%6%8%6%4%7%6%7%6%3%5%6%3%
(VOL) Don’t know4%2%2%2%2%3%3%2%3%3%3%4%1%3%
(n)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Aug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction24%32%31%35%29%30%24%28%23%27%23%28%
Wrong track66%58%61%56%65%65%66%63%68%66%69%63%
(VOL) Depends7%4%5%4%4%2%6%5%5%5%5%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%3%5%2%3%4%3%3%2%3%4%
(n)(806)(805)(1,002)(801)(801)(803)(1,012)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

4.Turning to issues closer to home, what is the biggest concern facing your family right now? [LIST WAS NOT READ]

  TREND: Dec. 2021July 2021Aug. 2020March 2020April 2019April 2018Jan. 2017Jan. 2015
Coronavirus/COVID-1918%17%39%57%n/an/an/an/a
Everyday bills, groceries, etc.15%11%8%6%8%12%12%16%
Inflation14%5%n/an/an/an/an/an/a
Job security, unemployment6%7%10%7%7%9%14%16%
The economy6%11%7%5%6%3%3%2%
Health care costs5%7%4%5%19%13%25%15%
Family illness, health4%3%4%3%3%3%3%4%
Quality of government4%3%3%0%2%3%1%2%
Safety, crime3%3%3%1%3%3%3%2%
Climate change, environment2%3%0%1%3%1%1%n/a
Housing, mortgage, rent2%3%2%1%2%4%3%4%
Taxes2%3%1%1%9%7%4%7%
Civil rights1%3%1%0%3%1%3%n/a
College tuition, school costs1%2%1%0%3%4%4%10%
Education policy1%3%3%1%2%2%1%2%
Immigration1%2%0%0%5%4%3%1%
Social Security, seniors1%1%1%0%3%3%3%2%
Guns, gun ownership0%0%0%0%1%2%n/an/a
Retirement saving0%0%1%0%0%1%2%3%
Terrorism, national security0%1%1%0%1%2%2%1%
Other2%3%4%3%6%6%3%4%
Don’t know/No answer11%9%8%9%16%15%10%8%
(n)(808)(804)(868)(851)(801)(803)(801)(1,003)

[Question 5 was asked only of those who mentioned a concern in Q4: n=747, moe=+/-3.6%]

5.Thinking about this most important concern, have the actions of the federal government since the beginning of the year helped, hurt, or had no real impact on this concern?

TREND: Dec.
2021
July
2021***
April
2019**
April
2018**
Jan.
2017*
Jan.
2015*
Helped25%31%14%14%27%14%
Hurt46%34%42%39%37%47%
No real impact27%31%42%44%34%38%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%3%2%2%
(n)(747)(730)(692)(680)(728)(926)

      *** July 2021 asked about “the past six months”

        ** 2019 and 2018 asked about “the past year”

        * 2017 and 2015 asked about “the past few years”

6.I’m going to read you some typical household expenses.  For each, please tell me if it is very easy, somewhat easy, somewhat difficult, or very difficult for you to pay for it?  If you do not have this expense, just let me know. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

Mortgage or rent payment

  TREND:Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy16%21%17%
Somewhat easy24%25%28%
Somewhat difficult24%24%22%
Very difficult13%9%11%
Do not have this expense23%19%20%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%2%
 (n)(808)(802)(801)

Grocery bills

 TREND:Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy19%33%28%
Somewhat easy37%36%34%
Somewhat difficult30%21%26%
Very difficult12%9%7%
Do not have this expense2%1%4%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%1%
 (n)(808)(802)(801)

Health insurance premiums

TREND:Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy22%21%19%
Somewhat easy24%26%23%
Somewhat difficult23%22%20%
Very difficult17%18%22%
Do not have this expense11%11%13%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%
 (n)(808)(802)(801)

Health care deductibles and out of pocket expenses

  TREND:Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy14%20%17%
Somewhat easy28%28%26%
Somewhat difficult27%25%25%
Very difficult21%20%21%
Do not have this expense9%6%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%3%
 (n)(808)(802)(801)

Paying taxes

 TREND:Dec.
2021
May
2019
March
2017
Very easy18%22%20%
Somewhat easy27%29%28%
Somewhat difficult27%26%27%
Very difficult17%15%14%
Do not have this expense9%6%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%2%2%
 (n)(808)(802)(801)

[QUESTIONS 7 & 8 WERE ROTATED]

On another topic, President Biden proposed a couple of multi-trillion dollar spending plans earlier this year.

7.[One is/The other is] an infrastructure plan to be spent on roads, bridges and trains, internet access, power grid improvements, and clean energy projects. In general, do you support or oppose this plan? [Is that strongly or somewhat support/oppose?]

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
 April
2021*
Strongly support42%44%51%49%Support68%
Somewhat support24%21%19%19%
Somewhat oppose9%8%8%8%Oppose29%
Strongly oppose22%23%21%21%
(VOL) Don’t know3%3%2%3%(VOL) Don’t know3%
 (n)(808)(811)(804)(810)   (n)(800)

      * April 2021 wording was “President Biden recently proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan…”

8.[One is/The other is] a plan to expand access to healthcare and childcare, and provide paid leave and college tuition support. In general, do you support or oppose this plan? [Is that strongly or somewhat support/oppose?]

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
 April
2021*
Strongly support42%45%47%41%Support64%
Somewhat support19%17%16%20%
Somewhat oppose8%7%8%10%Oppose34%
Strongly oppose27%28%27%24%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%2%5%(VOL) Don’t know2%
 (n)(808)(811)(804)(810)  (n)(800)

      * April 2021 wording was “Biden is also expected to propose a large spending plan …”

9.The plan to expand healthcare and other forms of support also includes a significant amount of money to deal with climate change. In general, do you support or oppose the climate change part of the plan? [Is that strongly or somewhat support/oppose?]

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Strongly support42%47%
Somewhat support14%13%
Somewhat oppose11%7%
Strongly oppose31%31%
(VOL) Don’t know3%3%
 (n)(808)(811)

10.The part of the bill that expands support programs has been significantly reduced in size during negotiations between Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration. Do you see that reduction as a good thing or bad thing overall?

  TREND:Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Good41%42%
Bad45%46%
(VOL) Don’t know14%12%
 (n)(808)(811)

11.The bill on support programs and climate change recently passed the House, but still awaits action in the Senate.  How important is it for Congress to enact this bill into law?  Do you feel this should be the top priority; that it is important but there are other more pressing matters for Congress to deal with; that it is not really important to take up right away, or that it should not be passed at all?

 Dec.
2021
Top priority28%
Important, but other priorities33%
Not really important9%
Should not be passed at all26%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
 (n)(808)

[Q12-28 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from December 2 to 6, 2021 with a probability-based national random sample of 808 adults age 18 and older. This includes 285 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 523 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n=457), Aristotle (list, n=150) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n=201). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
26% Republican
44% Independent
30% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
31% 18-34
33% 35-54
36% 55+
 
62% White
12% Black
17% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
68% No degree
32% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs