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The Zogby Poll®: Inflation index 2020

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The median overall perceived inflation over the past year is 10% - two times higher than what it was in 2018 and back to 2016 levels

The Chinese yuan is perceived as the biggest long-term threat to the US dollar, followed closely by euro

In 2016 and 2018, we looked at Americans' perception of inflation and found those perceptions to be considerably higher than the official numbers. In the latest Zogby Analytics national online survey of 1,025 American adults, we once again revisited these questions. We have found that subjective perception of how much prices have increased or decreased has jumped significantly since 2018 making the gap between the official statistics and perception high and close to the one observed in 2016.

Median overall perceived inflation over the past year is 10% - a double of what it was in 2018 and back to how it was perceived in 2016. Similar to results obtained two years ago, Democrats perceive inflation as significantly higher than Republicans and women perceive inflation to be higher than do men.

Inflation continues to be a partisan issue: the mean perceived inflation was 12.4% among Democrats and 7.6% among Republicans. The average perceived inflation among females is 10.5% - two percentage points higher than among males. Baby Boomers (10.8%) and Generation X (11.6%) perceive inflation to be higher than Millennials (8.8%) and Generation Z respondents (5.3%).

Among categories tested, median perceived inflation was highest for healthcare (10%) and food and beverages (10%), and lowest for childcare (5%).

Similar to the previous two surveys, we have asked 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 perceived inflation was for food and beverages (9.8%) and lowest for childcare (6.7%).

Various demographic groups perceive prices in different categories differently. Thus, Baby Boomers (12%) and females (10.9%) are particularly likely to see high inflation in the prices of food and beverages (overall mean perceived inflation 9.8%) while inflation in healthcare (overall mean inflation 8.8%) is perceived to be especially high by Democrats (10.8%) and Generation X respondents (10.7%). In the case of education (average perceived inflation 8.2%), groups that see the inflation to be higher than others are Baby Boomers (10.2%), those in the Central Great Lakes region (9.5%) and females (9.4%). Inflation in childcare (mean perceived inflation 6.7%) is seen especially high among Generation X respondents (8.1%). Finally, inflation in housing (average inflation 7.8%) is felt strongly by respondents aged 50-64 (9.5%).

On a scale 1-10 where 1 stands for 'not at all afraid' and 10 for 'terrified', average fear of inflation is 5.9, slightly higher than in 2018. Democrats, middle-aged respondents, union members and those living in the East region are most worried about inflation.

American adults are moderately afraid of inflation: On a scale 1-10 where 1 stands for 'not at all afraid' and 10 for 'terrified', average fear of inflation is 5.93 and '5' is the most common value. On average, Democrats (6.46) are more worried than Republicans (5.61), while respondents aged 30-49 (6.26) are more worried than both younger and older adults (5.40 in the 18-29 age group and 5.71 in the 65+ age group). Union members (6.35) are more worried than non-union members (5.83). Fear of inflation is strongest in the East (6.40, compared to 5.90 or less in the other three regions).

The Chinese yuan is perceived as the biggest long-term threat to the US dollar, followed closely by the euro. Older adults and adults living in small cities perceive the Chinese yuan to be the biggest threat, while middle-aged respondents and those living in big cities see the euro as the top threat.

The Chinese yuan remained a top perceived threat to the dollar as 18% of respondents chose it, compared to 14% who chose the euro. The gap between the Chinese yuan and the euro has considerably narrowed compared to two years ago going from a 12-point to only a four-point difference. A third (32%) of Americans remain agnostic regarding threats to the dollar.

Similar to results from two years ago, the older the respondents are, the more likely they are to see the Chinese yuan as a threat to the US dollar: 30% of respondents over 70 years of age consider yuan the top threat, compared to 23% of respondents in the 55-69 age group, 18% of respondents in the 35-54 age group, and 13% and 10% of respondents in the 25-34 and 18-24 age group, respectively. Other demographic groups that see yuan as a top threat in high numbers are adults living in small cities (25%), middle-income respondents (50-75k: 25%) and Catholics (24%). On the other hand, the euro is considered the top threat among those in the 35-54 age group (20%), respondents living in large cities (22%), and union members (22%).

The poll of 1,025 US adults was conducted online between 8/17/2020 through 8/19/2020 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

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