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Perceived inflation accelerates with median perceived inflation at 15% and housing prices now perceived to have risen 20% over the past year

Fear of inflation hits an all-time high (7.25/10)

As rising inflation continues to be on the minds of Americans, we at Zogby are taking a closer look at perceived inflation for the sixth time. Previously (in 2016, 2018, 2020 and in May and December of 2021) we have found Americans' perception of inflation to be considerably higher than the official numbers. And our newest national online survey of 1,208 American adults shows that subjective perception of how much prices have increased over the past year has continued to outpace statistics.

For the first time ever, median overall perceived inflation is 15% - five percentage points higher than this December and a triple of what it was in 2018. Perceived inflation has risen in all demographic groups.

The mean overall perceived inflation among females is 17.5% - more than four percentage points higher than among males (13.1%). Mean perceived inflation is now easily in double digits among all age groups ranging from 16.7% (Generation X) to 13.3% (Generation Z). Republicans continue to perceive inflation as higher than do Democrats (16.8% vs. 14.5%), consistent with the December 2021 results and a reversal from our 2018 and 2020 surveys.

Among categories tested, median perceived inflation was highest for housing (20%) and food and beverages (15%) and 10% in all other categories.

In addition to overall inflation, we have continued to ask our respondents to separately estimate the change in prices for the following categories: food and beverages, housing, healthcare, college education and childcare. The highest mean inflation continues to be perceived in housing (16.5%) and the lowest in the cost of college education (11.3%). Since December, mean perceived inflation for all categories has grown.

Different categories are perceived differently by various demographic groups. Inflation in food and beverages (overall mean perceived inflation 14.7%) is perceived as highest by rural area residents (16.7%) and Republicans (16.7%). Perceived inflation in housing prices (overall mean perceived inflation 16.5%) continues to be highest in the West (18.2%), but also among Baby Boomers (18.4%, more than four percentage points higher than among Millennials (14.3%). In the case of healthcare (overall mean inflation 11.9%) inflation is seen as highest by Baby Boomers (13.3%), rural area residents (13.1%), and, especially, retired Americans (13.6%). Perceived inflation in education (overall mean inflation 11.3%) is fairly similar across different demographic groups and highest among Republicans and rural area residents at 12.4%. Finally, inflation in childcare (overall mean perceived inflation 11.8%) is highest among females (13.5%; 10% among males) and rural area residents (14.2%, four percentage points higher than among urban respondents at 10.2%).

Americans' fear of inflation has also continued to rise. On a scale 1-10 where 1 stands for 'not at all afraid' and 10 for 'terrified', average fear of inflation is now 7.25 compared to 6.5 in December, 6.2 observed a year ago and 5.9 in 2020. Republicans and rural residents are most worried about inflation.

As inflation accelerates, Americans are getting more worried about it, with average fear of inflation now, at 7.25 on a 1-10 scale, reaching its highest point yet. Fear of inflation is fairly equally spread, with the gap narrowing compared to previous surveys. For example, Generation Z is now only slightly less afraid of inflation than Generation Z and Baby Boomers (6.8 vs. 7.5 vs. 7.3). The difference along party lines is more persistent (Republicans 8.0 vs. Democrats 6.8).

In December, cryptocurrencies have for the first time overtaken the Chinese yuan in being perceived as the biggest long-term threat to the US dollar. They have stayed there. Older adults, males, Republicans and college-educated Americans perceive the Chinese yuan as the biggest threat, while young respondents and African Americans see crypto-currencies as the top threat.

Our newest data have confirmed crypto's takeover of the yuan as the biggest threat to the US dollar: cryptocurrencies have remained at the top spot (20% compared to 21% in December) while the Chinese yuan remained second at 17% (vs. 16% this December). Confirming the pattern from previous surveys even more profoundly, the older the respondents are, the more likely they are to see the Chinese yuan as a threat to the US dollar: 38% of respondents over 70 years of age consider the yuan the top threat, compared to 21% of respondents in the 55-69 age group, 16% of respondents in the 35-54 age group, 9% of respondents in the 25-34 age group and just 4% in the 18-24 age group. Conversely, the younger the respondents, the more likely they are to see cryptocurrencies as a top threat: 27% of respondents in the 18-24 age group see cryptocurrencies as the biggest long-term threat to the US dollar compared to 16% of 70+ respondents. Other demographic groups that tend to see the yuan as a top threat are males (24%, only 11% among females), college educated respondents (24%, 14% among non-college educated), Republicans (24% vs. 13% among Democrats), and Whites (20%, 10% among Hispanics and 9% among African Americans). On the other hand, African American respondents (29%, 19% among Whites) perceive cryptocurrencies as a top threat.

Deficit spending (16% say this is the main source of inflation in the US), price gouging (17%) and the war in Ukraine (14%) are seen as approximately equal contributors to inflation, with 48% saying they are all contributing sources.

In addition to our regular questions, this time we have added a new question to our inflation tracker: "What do you think is the main source of inflation in the US?". We have found out that Deficit spending (16% say this is the main source of inflation in the US), price gouging (17%) and the war in Ukraine (14%) are seen as approximately equal contributors to inflation, with 48% saying all of them are contributing sources.

Deficit spending is blamed the most by college educated respondents (23%, compared to 14% among non-college educated), males (21%, 11% among females), Republicans (26%, 10% among Democrats), in the South (23%, lowest in the West at 10%), and among Baby Boomers (19%, 11% among Generation Z respondents). Price gouging is seen as the main source of inflation most often in the West (22%, 6+ percentage points higher than the other three regions) and among Democrats (23%, 14% among Republicans).

The poll of 1,208 US adults was conducted online between 05/23/2022 through 05/24/2022 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.