Economy, inflation remain top voter concerns ahead of midterm elections

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Inflation rose in September, PCE price index shows

FOX Business’ Cheryl Casone discusses the breaking PCE price index for September.

Inflation and the economy top the list of concerns for voters ahead of the pivotal midterm elections as Americans increasingly prioritize pocketbook issues, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.

A combined 50% of registered voters identified economic issues as their single most important issues, according to the poll, with 28% citing the economy and 22% pointing to scorching-hot inflation. Among Republicans, the percentage was even higher, with 73% naming one of the two as their top concern. Democrats, however, identified abortion rights as their No. 1 concern (29%) followed by the economy or inflation (28%).

The focus on the economy could ring alarm bells for Democrats, who are widely expected to lose their razor-thin majority in the House and possibly the Senate when voters head to the polls next week.

"The bottom line is voters are feeling the pain, and economists keep debating whether we're in a recession or not, which is sort of misleading," Tomas Philipson, a University of Chicago economist and former White House Council of Economic Advisors chair, told FOX Business on Monday. "What really matters is people's real income – how much they can buy for their paycheck."

THESE BUSINESS TITANS ARE SOUNDING THE ALARM OVER THE US ECONOMY

Pump prices listed at a gas station in Los Angeles on July 19, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Republicans have repeatedly slammed President Joe Biden and Democrats for policies that they argue have exacerbated the inflation crisis, including a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package passed in March 2021 and more recently the broad forgiveness of billions in student loan debt.

The president has blamed higher prices on greedy corporations, supply chain bottlenecks and other pandemic-induced disruptions in the economy, as well as the Russian war in Ukraine. Most economists now agree that unprecedented levels of government stimulus and a stronger-than-expected recovery from the pandemic have also played at least some role in worsening the price spike.

The White House has also tried to find the silver lining in the current state of the U.S. economy, highlighting record-low unemployment, positive economic growth in the third-quarter and the slow deceleration in inflation.

"I think that what's driving a different [tone] between how the White House talks about the economy," Philipson said. "They want to talk about how good the job market is. It's just not in tune with how voters are feeling. That sort of messaging by the White House, which is completely out of touch with what people are experiencing, is driving the frustration."

US RECESSION ODDS RISE TO 100% AS INFLATION SQUEEZES THE ECONOMY

A customer shops at a supermarket in Millbrae, California, on Aug. 10, 2022. (Li Jianguo/Xinhua via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The government reported in October that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price for everyday goods that includes gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 0.4% in September from the previous month. Prices climbed 8.2% on an annual basis. Those figures were both higher than expected.

In an even more concerning development that suggests underlying inflationary pressures in the economy remain strong, core prices – which strip out the more volatile measurements of food and energy – climbed 0.6% in September from the previous month. From the same time last year, core prices jumped 6.6%, the fastest since 1982.

High inflation has created severe financial pressures for most U.S. households, which are forced to pay more for everyday necessities like food and rent. The burden is disproportionately borne by low-income Americans, whose already stretched paychecks are heavily affected by price fluctuations.

President Joe Biden speaks about the economy at Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland on July 6, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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When factoring in inflation, average hourly earnings for all employees actually declined 3% in September from the same month a year ago when factoring in the impact of rising consumer prices. On a monthly basis, average hourly earnings dropped 0.1% last month when accounting for the inflation spike.

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