Gas Prices Seriously Impact Quality of Life

Gasoline prices are news.  But is it the incessant drone of the media on the issue of gas prices or are average Americans really feeling the pain in their pocketbooks?  The definitive answer to that question is yet to be written, but two recent polls hint at how Americans and foreigners feel on the subject.

An AP/Ipsos poll has found that 69 percent of Americans believe that over the next six months they expect that increases in the price of gasoline will cause financial hardship for them and/or a member of their family.  Some 30 percent said it would not cause financial hardship, while just one percent of the populace was unsure.

The magnitude of the problem is even more pronounced according to a national poll conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute.  Over three-quarters of all respondents, 77.6 percent, indicated that recent gasoline price increases are very seriously (42.3 percent) or somewhat seriously (35.3 percent) impacting their own quality of life. This is an increase from 71.3 percent recorded in April.

Interestingly, similar percentages of Australians, Canadians, Spaniards and Italians also say the rising price of gasoline is due to cause them financial hardship.  The French and South Koreans take an even bleaker composite view.  Some 90 percent of the French and South Koreans say that rising fuel costs will bring a pox on them or their families in the next six months.  The worldwide polling was conducted by AP/Ipsos.  The major difference is that in most of the above-cited countries the per-gallon price of gasoline is much higher than in the U.S.  For example, while Americans think a price of less than $3 a gallon is "fair," the French, South Koreans, and Italians say $4 a gallon is the fair price, and Germans and the British say nearly $5 a gallon is the fair value.

What are people doing about the high cost of fuel?  According to the Sacred Heart poll, over half of all Americans surveyed, 55.8 percent, indicated they will travel less this coming holiday season as a direct result of higher gasoline prices. Another 37.4 percent obstinately suggested they would not travel less and 6.8 percent were unsure.

Among those currently owning a car, 56.0 percent now report their next car will be smaller and more gas-efficient, up from 45.7 percent in April, and 45.2 percent of those who will purchase a new car will consider a hybrid vehicle, though 38.0 percent say they will not consider the new hybrids.

Sacred Heart researchers also asked respondents if they supported or opposed a number of suggestions and strategies some have offered to reduce the impact of higher gasoline prices, and the results were good news and bad news for environmentalists and proponents of increased governmental regulation.

A large majority, 79.5 percent, strongly or somewhat support allowing the Federal Government to permit new oil refineries throughout the United States as needed, and more than two-thirds, 68.4 percent, strongly or somewhat support allowing expanded drilling for oil in places such as Utah, Alaska and Colorado.

At the same time, over half of all respondents, 57.4 percent, noted they strongly or somewhat support lowering highway speed limits to 55 miles per hour.  But there is certainly no groundswell favoring higher taxes. Some 63.8 percent said they strongly or somewhat oppose adding 20 cents per gallon in Federal gasoline tax to support research on energy alternatives.

Based in Villeperce, France, Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley has to cope with $4 gas as he explores the auto industry and the human condition.