Falling gas prices won’t keep Democrats from losing key Senate elections

Utah, Arizona and Nevada have a lot in common. All are largely arid places dominated by rural expanses with dense urban niches where the majority of people live. All three are also politically contentious and are home to some of the most competitive statewide campaigns in the nation this year. And all three are among the most expensive places in the country to buy a gallon of gas, a theme that has largely defined the 2022 election cycle.

In Utah, gas prices remained at $4.21 a gallon on Thursday. In Arizona — where gas prices have proven to be a particularly prominent topic of conversation — the price of a gallon of gasoline remained consistently high at $4.42, according to gas prices compiled by the American Automobile Association. And in Nevada, prices have stuck at more than $5.14 a gallon, making the state one of the most expensive in the country — and ripe for Republican attacks on gas prices.

“Under Democratic rule, the price of gas in Nevada has gone up 100 percent,” former President Donald Trump said at a recent Nevada rally for Republican Adam Laxalt, who has a real chance of unseating Democratic US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in November . “Two years ago everything was so good in our country and now it’s falling apart. It’s falling apart You have gas now, $5 today, $5.54 a gallon.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have had little help fighting the narrative in the states that matter most.

fuel prices
Gas prices are seen on a gas pump at a BP gas station on Coney Island Avenue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York on October 19. Republicans are attacking Democratic policies they see responsible for the high gas prices in the final weeks of the midterm election cycle.
Michael Santiago/Getty Images

With the looming recession, oil markets – and with them gas prices – began to fall. In Nevada and Arizona, prices fell 19 and 12 cents, respectively, week-on-week as President Joe Biden’s administration has tried to blame oil producers for the high prices as part of its own three-pronged initiative to tighten prices to lower even further.

“If you say gas prices are going up, then your narrative is outdated,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said tweeted Thursday.

Whether the change will be enough to save their contestants in battleground races across the country is another story, however.

Looking at prices month-to-month, gas prices in Utah are down just 1 cent and are more than 50 cents higher than this time last year.

Even with prices falling in Nevada, gas prices are still 22 cents higher than a month ago, more than $1.20 a gallon since last fall. And in Arizona, the monthly increase is nearly 50 cents from a month ago.

In practice this is quite important. Survey analyzed by The Washington Post found that Biden’s approval rating correlates almost directly with gas prices. A 2016 study by political scientists Laurel Harbridge, Jon Krosnick, and Jeffrey Wooldridge found a similar trend, noting that every 10 cent increase in a gallon of gasoline typically resulted in about a half percent drop in the incumbent president’s approval rating. Meanwhile, conservative pollsters like Rasmussen have ranked gas prices – and inflation in the grand scheme of things – as one of the top issues voters face this fall.

But others say the link between gas prices and public opinion appears to be weakening.

Both former President Barack Obama and Trump maintained steady approval and disapproval ratings throughout their tenures, both marked by spikes in gas prices that had little impact on the outcome of the midterms or general election during their tenure. Biden’s support rose particularly early in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and again over the summer when gas prices remained stubbornly high in many parts of the country.

Industry analysts are increasingly saying that high gas prices are something that politics has little control over. And as the Harbridge/Krosnick/Wooldridge paper notes, studies over the years have found that few Americans credit or blame government for changes in their own personal economic circumstances, instead using their judgments of the national economy to shape their political opinions.

If the polls prove correct, individual perceptions of high gas prices and their importance will likely determine how swing state voters react. And it probably won’t be in Democrats’ favor.

“Ideally, voters would make their choices about who to vote for, or whether to vote at all, based on these and other issues that politicians can actually do something about,” wrote Hugh Jackson, a Las Vegas columnist, in an article for the Nevada Current on Thursday. “But if the polls are to be believed, voters will base their choice on the price of gas instead.”

https://www.newsweek.com/falling-gas-prices-will-not-impact-democrats-losing-key-senate-races-experts-comment-1753673 Falling gas prices won’t keep Democrats from losing key Senate elections

Rick Schindler

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