Prices at gas pump painful for 4 in 10 Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) - With gasoline prices hovering at $4 a gallon
nationally, many Americans are making tough choices: scaling back
summer vacations, driving less or ditching the car altogether. And
high prices are hitting seniors harder than a month ago.
An Associated Press-GfK poll shows the share of Americans who
say increases in the price of gasoline will cause serious financial
hardship for them or their family in the next six months now tops 4
in 10.
Overall in the poll, 71 percent said rising prices will cause
some hardship for them and their family, including 41 percent who
called it a "serious" hardship. Just 29 percent said rising
prices are not causing a negative impact on their finances.
By income, 63 percent of those with annual household incomes
over $50,000 now say rising prices are causing them financial
hardship, up from 55 percent in March. Those with lower incomes
already were more likely to feel strained in March, and more than
three-fourths of them continue to report financial hardship.
For older Americans, it's worse.
The share of seniors expressing financial hardship over gas
prices hit 76 percent; it was 68 percent in March.
Nettie Cash, 65, of Dallas, Ga., is cutting back on her medicine
because of the cost of fueling up her Buick. Cash is still taking
her heart pills but is forgoing her inhaler and ulcer medicine for
now.
"It's not easy," she said. "You have to do what you have to
do."
The public's coping strategies are largely unchanged from March,
with 72 percent having cut back on other expenses, 66 percent
saying they've reduced the amount of driving they do and 48 percent
changing vacation plans.
Since January, gas prices have shot up about 90 cents, with the
national average for a gallon of regular this week at $3.96.
Financial analyst Nicole Polite in Baltimore sold her Nissan
Altima recently and is taking public transportation, opting for the
bus, rails and walking to get to work. Gas prices were just too
high, she says, so she and her boyfriend downsized to a one-car
household. She says they kept their Lexus sedan, which requires
pricey premium gas.
"It's definitely a financial strain because now you have to
reassess everything," said Polite, 32. "We don't go out as much.
That $20 that we could have used to go to a movie - now that money
has been absorbed by the gas tank."
But analysts say relief is coming. Fred Rozell, retail pricing
director at the Oil Price Information Service, expects the price at
the pump to drop as much as 40 cents in the next four weeks.
Until that happens, Ross Cobb in Boerne, Texas, will still try
to keep his highway miles down. Cobb says he and his wife have been
driving less and curbing trips into the city for their children's
clothing and other supplies.
"We coordinate all of our trips into San Antonio," said Cobb,
an associate athletic director at the University of Texas. "We
don't ever go in anymore just for one particular errand. We wait
until we've got two or three things to do."
The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted May 5-9 by GfK Roper
Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline
and cellphone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and has a
margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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