Americans are most likely to say (32%) they would seek vehicles that get better gas mileage if gas prices keep rising but don’t go above the $5-per-gallon range, according to results of a May 2011 USA Today/Gallup poll. Americans are second-most likely (19%) to say they would use mass transit.
Less Than Half of Americans Would Never Replace Vehicle
Replacing a vehicle with one that gets better mileage is the only response to high gas prices that less than half of Americans (38%) say they would not do, no matter how high prices rise. On the other end of the spectrum, about seven in 10 (69%) Americans would not move and about the same percentage of workers (72%) would not change jobs or quit working, no matter how high prices rise.
Level of Financial Hardship, Driving Frequency Have Impact
Forty-four percent of those who say recent increases in gas prices are causing them “severe” financial hardship would replace their vehicle at prices up to the $5 range, while 25% of those experiencing no financial hardship would do so.
Similarly, 37% of those who say they drive more than average or drive an average amount would get a more fuel-efficient vehicle, while 28% of those who say they drive less than average would replace their current vehicle at prices up to the $5-per-gallon range. Interestingly, whether gas price increases are temporary or permanent has little effect on response rates.
Low-Income Americans Most Likely Among Income Groups to Look to Mass Transit
Americans making less than $30,000 a year (32%) are about three times more likely than those making $75,000 or more (11%) to say they will use mass transit if gas prices rise to the $5-per-gallon range. Those currently experiencing severe financial hardship because of gas prices (25%) are about twice as likely as those experiencing no hardship (13%) to say the same. Again, the permanency of price increases has minimal impact on response rates.
Electric Cars Unpopular Response to Gas Prices
Americans are less likely to say they would buy an electric car than they are to say they would buy a more fuel-efficient one if gas prices rise to the $5-per-gallon range. Just 12% say at that price, they would be willing to buy such a car that they could drive only a limited number of miles at one time. Another 10% would make such a purchase if gas prices are in the $6- to $7.99-per-gallon range and another 9% if gas prices reach $8 to $10 per gallon. Still, 57% say they would not buy such an electric car no matter the price of gas.
High-income Americans are about twice as likely as those with low incomes to say they would purchase an electric car if gas prices rose to the $5 range. Otherwise, no matter whether respondents view higher prices as temporary or permanent, or the degree of financial hardship high gas prices are causing them, electric cars are equally unpopular as a response to high gas prices.
Gas Prices Affect Consumer Behavior
The slight majority of Americans (53%) say they have responded to today’s steep gas prices by making major changes in their personal lives, while 46% say they have not, according to results of an earlier May 2011 USA Today/Gallup poll. Sizable proportions of adults of all major income levels have made such changes, including 68% of low-income Americans, 54% of middle-income Americans, and 44% of upper-income Americans.
About the Data: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 12-15, 2011, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.