Visualization of NPI's October 2022 cost of living / inflation causes question
Visualization of NPI's October 2022 poll finding concerning Washingtonians' views on the causes of inflation

A major­i­ty of like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers agree more with Democ­rats than Repub­li­cans about the caus­es of infla­tion and price increas­es, a sur­vey con­duct­ed last week for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

50% of 782 like­ly vot­ers inter­viewed for NPI by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy from Octo­ber 19th-20th said they agreed more with Democ­rats about the caus­es of infla­tion and price increas­es, while 43% agreed with Repub­li­cans more. 7% were not sure.

Visualization of NPI's October 2022 cost of living / inflation causes question
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s Octo­ber 2022 poll find­ing con­cern­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ views on the caus­es of inflation

Repub­li­cans have tried to claim through­out 2022 that Pres­i­dent Biden’s poli­cies, includ­ing the admin­is­tra­tion’s response to COVID-19 are to blame for increas­es in the cost of liv­ing that Amer­i­cans are grap­pling with.

Yet our research shows that most Wash­ing­ton vot­ers are more in agree­ment with Democ­rats that what’s dri­ving infla­tion and price increas­es are Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, the eco­nom­ic after­shocks of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, and cor­po­rate prof­i­teer­ing that Repub­li­cans won’t help rein in.

Here’s the full text of the ques­tion we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Democ­rats say that recent infla­tion and price increas­es are being dri­ven by Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, the eco­nom­ic after­shocks of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, and cor­po­rate prof­i­teer­ing that Repub­li­cans won’t help rein in. Repub­li­cans say that infla­tion and price increas­es are being dri­ven by Democ­rats’ reck­less spend­ing, vac­cine man­dates, and sup­ply chain woes Biden hasn’t fixed. Who do you agree with more con­cern­ing the caus­es of inflation?


  • Agree with Democ­rats more: 50%
  • Agree with Repub­li­cans more: 43%
  • Not sure: 7%

Our sur­vey of 782 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State midterm vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Octo­ber 19th through Thurs­day, Octo­ber 20th. The sur­vey was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

Repub­li­cans may excel at mes­sag­ing and relent­less pro­pa­gan­da dis­sem­i­na­tion, but as we can see, there are lim­its to their noise machine’s effectiveness.

Democ­rats have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to go on offense regard­ing the cost of liv­ing by refram­ing and pro­vid­ing vot­ers the con­text that Repub­li­cans are try­ing to conceal.

The truth is, we live in a world with a glob­al­ly inte­grat­ed econ­o­my and infla­tion is a glob­al prob­lem. It’s not just the Unit­ed States that is expe­ri­enc­ing it. Every region and every con­ti­nent has been affect­ed. Infla­tion is actu­al­ly worse in Europe and many oth­er places in the world than it is here in the Unit­ed States. World events, espe­cial­ly the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, are dri­ving infla­tion. But there’s also anoth­er cause that for­mer Labor Sec­re­tary Robert Reich has been thank­ful­ly try­ing to draw atten­tion to: cor­po­rate profiteering.

Here’s Reich, writ­ing in The Guardian:

Infla­tion in the Unit­ed States is also being caused by cor­po­ra­tions rais­ing their prices faster than their costs to fat­ten their prof­it margins.

The evi­dence of this is now all around us.

Cor­po­rate prof­it mar­gins are at record highs.

“The com­pa­nies who set prices are real­ly reluc­tant to stop increas­ing them,” says Jean­na Smi­alek, who writes about the Fed for the New York Times. “What we saw was that cor­po­ra­tions were actu­al­ly pock­et­ing quite a bit more prof­it off this… They’re still putting up prices very rapid­ly, even in instances where their own costs are start­ing to fall.”

Cor­po­rate prof­its con­tin­ue to climb even as con­sumers are tak­ing it on the chin. It’s a giant redis­tri­b­u­tion from con­sumers to corporations.

“Until Democ­rats tell it like it is, their elec­toral majori­ties will con­tin­ue to be frag­ile,” Reich says. And he makes a very, very good point. Democ­rats should be cam­paign­ing on a wind­fall prof­its tax and cor­po­rate accountability.

It has been said that every good sto­ry has a hero and a vil­lain. Repub­li­cans want to make Pres­i­dent Biden, Speak­er Pelosi, and Democ­rats the vil­lains in this year’s infla­tion sto­ry. But the real vil­lains are dic­ta­tors like Vladimir Putin and cor­po­rate CEOs who are hap­pi­ly exploit­ing peo­ple’s eco­nom­ic hard­ship. If Democ­rats don’t name and blame those vil­lains, Repub­li­cans’ nar­ra­tive is more like­ly to stick.

The results of the ques­tion we asked last week about the caus­es of infla­tion show that despite Repub­li­cans’ best efforts so far, an open­ing remains for Democ­rats to engage in a dia­logue with vot­ers about what’s real­ly happening.

Sure, the vot­ing has start­ed, ads are already up on the air, and many strate­gic deci­sions have already been made. But mil­lions upon mil­lions of Amer­i­cans haven’t vot­ed yet, espe­cial­ly those who are unde­cid­ed. A win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty remains for Democ­rats to talk to those vot­ers and rebut Repub­li­cans’ narrative.

Repub­li­cans haven’t actu­al­ly pro­posed any ideas or poli­cies to help mid­dle and low income Amer­i­cans who are grap­pling with infla­tion. They’re just play­ing a big blame game and urg­ing vot­ers to take out their frus­tra­tion on Democrats.

Democ­rats, mean­while, have actu­al­ly come up with and passed ideas to com­bat infla­tion. The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act, for exam­ple, is so named because it seeks to address Amer­i­cans’ cost of liv­ing con­cerns and tan­gi­bly help them.

Empow­er­ing Medicare to start nego­ti­at­ing pre­scrip­tion drug prices is a big, big deal. Despite hav­ing real accom­plish­ments to tout and good ideas to go even fur­ther, Democ­rats have strug­gled to make their case to voters.

On so-called social issues or in defense of democ­ra­cy, the par­ty is increas­ing­ly good at speak­ing with one voice. Democ­rats have seized the offen­sive in response to the Supreme Court’s hor­rif­ic Dobbs deci­sion, for exam­ple, and Democ­rats also speak with clar­i­ty and con­vic­tion on LGBTQ+ rights and gun safety.

But on eco­nom­ic jus­tice, not so much.

The par­ty does for­tu­nate­ly have role mod­els it can turn to and trust in right now.

Reich, Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren, and Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders are among those who speak with great con­vic­tion and pas­sion on mat­ters of eco­nom­ic jus­tice. They’re good sto­ry­tellers and they don’t pass up an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reframe.

If more Democ­rats fol­lowed the exam­ple of these bold and inspir­ing lead­ers, the par­ty’s prospects of suc­cess in these midterms would brighten.

Democ­rats are very for­tu­nate in that they have a more fired up and moti­vat­ed base than they had in 2010 or 2014. Polls sug­gest many races are close and could go either way. To win, Democ­rats must be ready to go out and make the strongest pos­si­ble clos­ing argu­ment. Aggres­sive­ly address­ing tough issues like cost of liv­ing head on and call­ing out the real vil­lains is nec­es­sary and important.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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