WASHINGTON — American drivers are changing their driving habits because of rising gasoline prices, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll released Wednesday.
They blame violence in the Middle East or oil companies for the sticker shock at the gas pump, the poll found. Few blame the government — though there's confusion about President Barack Obama's policy toward Libya.
"Americans have certainly noticed the gas prices, and most drivers are saying they're changing their driving habits. This is an issue that strikes close to home," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College, which conducted the nationwide poll from April 10-14.
"There's plenty of blame to go around," he said.
Drivers said by 55-45 percent they're changing their habits as gas tops $4 a gallon in many parts of the country. Most likely to drive less? Those making less than $50,000 a year, who said so by 65-35 percent.
Least likely? College graduates, by 59-41 percent, and those making more than $50,000 annually, by 56-44 percent.
Drivers split their blame, with 36 percent pointing at the Middle East and 33 percent blaming oil companies. Only 11 percent blame Obama and Democrats, while 6 percent blame congressional Republicans.
On Libya, by 57-42 percent, Americans said they don't have a clear idea of what the U.S. is doing there. The clearest dividing line was income, with those making less than $50,000 a year unclear by 68-30 percent, and those making more than that clear about U.S. goals by 54-46 percent.
"The Libya situation still needs a clearer definition," Miringoff said. "In the short run, he (Obama) has some convincing to do. In the long run, if we remain involved in Libya without a clearer definition of the goals, it's hard to imagine that people won't start asking more questions. There's not a deep reservoir of support for the policies."
This survey of 1,274 adults was conducted on April 10-14. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the continental U.S. were interviewed by telephone. Telephone numbers were selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. To increase coverage, this land-line sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers. The two samples were then combined. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 3 percentage points. There were 1,084 registered voters. The results for that sample are statistically significant within plus or minus 3 percentage points. There are 559 drivers. Results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.
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