Siena Poll: War and inflation weighing on minds of New Yorkers

Remmie Norman, of Schenectady, fills up her SUV before heading downstate at Alltown Fresh in Schenectady in early March.

Remmie Norman, of Schenectady, fills up her SUV before heading downstate at Alltown Fresh in Schenectady in early March.

LOUDONVILLE — The Ukraine war and U.S. inflation trends are weighing on the minds of New Yorkers, as a new poll finds many expect a serious impact on their spending, saving and planning.

The Siena College Research Institute said its survey found inflation having a serious negative impact on 70% of respondents, while 54% fear that the war will have financial repercussions in America for years to come.

“Inflation had gotten New Yorkers’ attention, but now add in war in Ukraine and consumers are very concerned, and many are planning to cut back,” SCRI Director Don Levy said in a statement accompanying release of the poll results Thursday morning.

“Gas, food and utilities costs are a concern for between 76-87% of all New Yorkers,” he said. “And with inflation soaring, about 70% worry about the American dollar’s worth and the value of their retirement accounts.”

Overall, the issues of greatest concern were:

  • Food prices 87%
  • Cost of gasoline 80%
  • Home utility costs 76%
  • Availability of goods 73%
  • Value of the U.S. dollar 71%
  • Retirement account value 68%

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There was demographic variation within the respondents’ answers:

  • Upstate residents were much more concerned than New York City residents about gasoline.
  • Republicans were much more concerned than Democrats about the worth of the American dollar and gasoline costs.
  • Those with children in their household voiced more concern than those without children at home.
  • White respondents expressed serious concern more than Latino respondents about some impacts and Latinos more than whites on other impacts, but Black respondents consistently expressed serious concern less often than both whites and Latinos.
  • Respondents in the middle-income bracket ($50,000 to $100,000 a year) said they are more likely than lower- or higher-income respondents to buy fewer items (74%) or less-expensive items (71%).

And there were some predictable results:

  • Respondents with over $100,000 annual income are the most likely to continue to live and spend as before, with no cutbacks.
  • Those with incomes under $50,000 are most likely to seek a second job or other source of income.
  • Only 9% of Black respondents said they’d reduce or halt contributions to their retirement plan, a key financial tool that many Black Americans don’t have; white and Latino respondents were more likely to cut contributions and/or make withdrawals from their accounts.
  • Significantly more Republicans than Democrats think the Ukraine war will lead to long-term economic problems affecting Americans for years; significantly more Democrats than Republicans think the war will end soon, with only short-term effects on the American economy and Americans’ finances.
  • Respondents ages 50 to 64 — the age bracket closest to retirement and the need to rely on savings or retirement plans — consistently expressed the most concern or the most serious concern of any age group throughout the poll.

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“With the pandemic’s effects lessening, New Yorkers were ready to exhale, but economic conditions and war in Eastern Europe have us holding our breath again,” Levy said. “Food prices and gasoline now worry at least eight out of every ten New Yorkers and with 70% saying inflation is negatively affecting their finances and 71% concerned about the worth of the dollar, those kitchen table discussions are not for the faint of heart.”

Ultimately, he said, how the economy evolves and the war progresses will determine whether economic activity slows in New York state.

SRCI is an independent, non-partisan research institute. It conducted the Special Survey of Economic Impacts online and via telephone March 14-17, reaching 801 people; the results have a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

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