It’s generally been conventional wisdom that higher gas prices represent a drag on the political fortunes of the party in power. Therefore, should gas prices remain high or increase further heading into November, that would likely bode ill for Democrats in the midterm elections.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump studied the correlation for a column this week and found that the president’s approval rating has closely followed gas prices in recent months.
“One way we can visualize the relationship between two sets of data is to compare them directly on a chart. After all, if two numbers move in concert, they can be depicted literally moving in concert,” the column said. “One goes up, the other moves either up or down consistently. That sort of thing. So if we plot one set of numbers on the vertical axis of a chart (say, weekly gas price averages) and another on the horizontal axis (like FiveThirtyEight’s average of Biden’s approval polling), a correlation will be revealed as the two numbers are moving in concert.”
The correlation, he wrote, was very close. “If we look at monthly averages, though, we see a similar pattern. Biden’s approval falls a bit as gas prices rise from January to June (the dot at the top of the graph), then his approval recovers as prices fall.” He was clear, though, that the correlation is not causation, and that other factors are also in play.
“This offers a warning for Democrats. Gas prices are trending back up, just as we hit the three-week mark from the election. There’s a reason the Biden administration wants OPEC to kick out its planned production cut for a month. His team is certainly aware of how these numbers have been moving, too,” he wrote.
The Michigan Journal of Economics, earlier this year, had studied what it called “The Link Between Gas Prices and Presidential Approval Ratings.”
“The rise in gas prices have been strongly correlated with Biden’s rising disapproval rates,” the Journal said. “Other factors may be at play to explain this, however. Biden, like most presidents, has had many issues that he has promised to tackle. Since his early legislative success and post-inauguration honeymoon period, the COVID-19 pandemic has lingered, and many of the other items on his agenda have stalled.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.