High Gas Prices Affecting Many Americans' Driving and Travel Plans

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Lower-income and younger Americans report greatest impact

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gas prices around the nation have exceeded an average of $1.60 per gallon and are as high as $2.00 per gallon in some parts of the country. It still remains unclear when -- and even if -- prices will decrease, although a Gallup poll conducted in late May showed that about half of Americans believed the price increase to be permanent. In the most recent Gallup poll, conducted June 6-7, nearly half of Americans (48%) claim that gas prices have affected their driving habits or vacation plans. While previous polls showed that only a limited proportion of Americans had experienced "financial hardship" because of higher fuel costs, it appears that many Americans are feeling the impact of increased gas prices on their lives at least to some degree.

High Prices Have Had Greater Consequences for Younger Americans
The effects of higher gas prices have not been felt equally across society. There are considerable differences according to age in response to the increased costs of fuel, with younger people altering their driving behavior much more frequently than older people. Specifically, 60% of those aged 18-29 say that gas prices have affected their driving habits or vacation plans, compared to 48% of Americans aged 30-64 and just 37% of those 65 years and older.

Gallup polls conducted earlier this year showed that the percentage of people saying that higher gas prices had caused "financial hardship" for their family was much greater among lower-income Americans. Not surprisingly then, lower-income Americans are also more likely than wealthier Americans to say they have had to rethink their driving or vacation plans. Nearly two out of three (64%) of those with household incomes less than $20,000 say they have had to modify their plans, compared to 52% of those with incomes between $20,000 and $50,000 and just 38% of those with incomes greater than $50,000.

Impact Much Greater in Rural Areas and in the South
The poll also shows that the effects of rising gas prices vary considerably by geographic location. A majority of those living in rural areas (54%) indicate they have had to revise their driving plans in response to high gas prices, while Americans residing in suburban (48%) and urban areas (43%) are much less likely to have done so.

Finally, Americans living in the Southern and Midwestern parts of the country are also more likely to have altered their driving plans. Fifty-three percent of those residing in the South and 50% of those residing in the Midwest maintain that rising gas prices have forced them to change their driving habits or vacation plans, compared to just 44% of those living in the West and 43% in the East. This may simply be a reflection of the fact that mass transit options are more commonly available in urban areas on the east and west coasts, and thus reliance on automobile transportation is reduced.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,059 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 6-7, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Have rising gas prices in recent months affected your driving habits or vacation plans?

 

Yes

No

No opinion

%

%

%

2000 Jun 6-7

48

52

*

By Age

18-29 Years Old

60

40

*

30-49 Years Old

50

50

*

50-64 Years Old

44

56

*

65 Years and Older

37

62

1

By Household Income

Under $20,000

64

36

*

$20,000-$50,000

52

48

*

Over $50,000

38

62

*

By Place of Residence

Urban

43

57

*

Suburban

48

52

*

Rural

54

46

*

By Region

East

43

57

*

South

53

50

*

Midwest

50

47

*

West

44

56

*



Do you think the current rise in gas prices represents a temporary fluctuation in prices, or a more permanent change in prices?

BASED ON -- 507 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; +/- 5 PCT PTS

 

 

Temporary

More permanent

No opinion

       

2000 May 23-24

45%

50

5

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

60%

37

3

2000 Mar 10-12

63%

34

3



Looking ahead to one month from now, do you think gas prices at that time will be higher than they are today, about the same, or lower than they are today?

BASED ON – 525 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; +/- 5 PCT PTS

 

 

Higher

About the same

Lower

No opinion

         

2000 May 23-24

51%

33

14

2

         

2000 Mar 10-12

74%

16

9

1



Looking ahead to six months from now, do you think gas prices at that time will be higher than they are today, about the same, or lower than they are today?

BASED ON – 525 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B +/- 5 PCT PTS

 

 

Higher

About the same

Lower

No opinion

         

2000 May 23-24

24%

25

49

2

2000 Mar 10-12

37%

26

34

3



Have recent price increases in gasoline caused any financial hardship for you or your household?

 

 

Yes,
caused hardship

No, has not
caused hardship

No
opinion

       
 

%

%

%

2000 May 23-24

36

64

*

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

39

61

*

2000 Mar 10-12

41

59

*

2000 Feb 14-15**

40

60

*



(**) Question wording:Have recent price increases in gasoline, diesel fuel and home fuel oil caused any financial hardship for you or your household?

Will the price of gas cause you to drive less than you might have otherwise this summer, or not?

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2000 May 23-24

41%

57

2



*Less than 0.5%

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/2806/High-Gas-Prices-Affecting-Many-Americans-Driving-Travel-Plans.aspx
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