Soaring inflation and the tumbling stock market have upended Patricia Strong’s retirement.
The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident had hoped her husband could also retire so they could spend the winter in Mexico. But now, the couple hesitates to plan even a short getaway since the price of gas and groceries have increased while the value of their investments has gone in the opposite direction.
“Spending a couple of thousand for a weekend trip just isn’t feasible anymore,” said Strong, 70, a former executive director of a chamber of commerce. “We’re watching our retirement accounts fade into the sunset.”
The price of both her haircuts and manicures have gone up by $10. And it recently cost her $62 to fill up her 2021 Buick Enclave – that’s about twice as much as she paid when former President Donald Trump was in office.
Strong, who says she is fiscally conservative and socially moderate, considers herself an independent. She voted for Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and for several local Democratic candidates. But she also supported Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
This year, she is voting solidly Republican in her swing state races – for Blake Masters over Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and for Kari Lake over her Democratic opponent Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state.
“The price of everything was better during Trump,” she said. “We were looking forward to retirement because everything was good.”
Like Strong, some 78% of Americans rate economic conditions in the country as “poor” or “very poor,” according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS and taken in September and October. Half of Americans say that President Joe Biden’s policies have served to worsen economic conditions, only 32% approve of his handling of inflation and 36% approve of his handling of the economy.
The latest economic data shows that inflation remained uncomfortably high in September, and gas prices are still higher than they were a year ago, though they’ve drifted down after surging earlier this year.
The economy and inflation are top of mind for nearly all likely voters in the midterm election, with broad majorities saying each is “extremely important” or “very important” in deciding their vote for who to send to Congress, the CNN poll found. Fewer voters say the same about immigration and climate change.
In another CNN poll released Wednesday, three-quarters of likely voters say they believe the economy is in a recession, and nearly half say they’re dissatisfied with their personal financial situation.
Inflation strains family budgets
Maria Milligan of Perrysburg, Ohio, said she’s voting only for Republicans this year. She believes they understand money better.
Rising prices are causing her a lot of stress. Fewer people are shopping at the retail store where she works, prompting her to worry she may lose her job if she doesn’t make her sales quota. And she’s now shelling out $200 a week for groceries, though she’s only feeding herself, her husband and their teen son. It used to cost around $75.
Plus, she’s not happy with the policies the Democrats have put in place since they took control of the White House and Congress last year. Milligan said she doesn’t qualify for Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, though she has $70,000 in education debt. And she had to work throughout the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic without a raise or bonus, while those who got laid off received generous unemployment benefits.
“The Democrats are just a bunch of hippies that are out for themselves,” said Milligan, 38, whose savings have been drained over the past year. “They don’t care about the people. They don’t care about the country.”
Melody Sirna, however, has the opposite view. Though she has had to cut back because her electricity and groceries now cost more, she thinks the Democrats are more concerned with helping lower-income Americans and senior citizens. That’s why the West Milwaukee, Wisconsin, resident plans to support Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes for Senate over Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, and Gov. Tony Evers over his GOP challenger Tim Michels – although she has voted for Republicans in the past.
“I’m for whoever will help,” said Sirna, 61, a widow who used to work as a recruiter at a marketing firm. Evers is “more sympathetic towards people’s needs.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct Strong's name in one instance.
CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy and Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.