PORTLAND- Three-quarters of Maine residents say wages are falling behind the cost of living, and only 13% believe the government is doing enough, according to the results of a statewide survey conducted by Market Decisions Research (MDR).
MDR, an independent public policy research firm, asked Mainers how they have been impacted by inflation and the effects it has had on their daily lives. In all but one county, Penobscot, most residents said their wages were not keeping pace with the increasing cost of basic necessities.
The survey, conducted in September, found increasing gas prices have caused hardship for half of all Mainers. Two-thirds said they changed their driving habits due to the cost of gas but many others don’t have the option to change their driving habits to accommodate these higher costs. The residents of Maine’s more rural counties were less likely to have made adjustments because they don’t have the option if they want access to jobs, health care, and shopping. Residents of Piscataquis County, the most rural county in the state, were least likely to have changed their driving habits (42%).
Blame for these increasing costs is split across the political line, with 67% of Republicans blaming the president and 66% of Democrats blaming oil companies’ drive for profits, the survey found.
The cost of a single-family home surged across the state throughout the pandemic with the average home price at $320,000. With an average median household income of $58,924, homeownership has become out of reach for many, including younger Mainers and those with lower incomes.
Nearly one-fifth of residents said the rise in housing costs has caused financial hardship for their household. Three-quarters of low-income families who rent are always worried that they will be forced to move. Exacerbating this problem is the increase in rent and few options to move. Over one-third of renters across the state said their rent has increased in the past six months and a quarter have considered moving during that time period. The price of purchasing or renting has made it difficult for 79% of those who have considered moving.
Compounding the problems associated with increased fuel and housing costs, food prices have risen notably in the past six months. Price increases have caused financial hardship to half of all residents, with 50% of Maine families of four are spending between $150-$300 per week on food, while one-fifth spend over $300 per week. Families of three or more were more likely to have experienced financial hardship due to higher foods cost, while Franklin County residents were significantly more likely to have cut the size or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food (75% versus 26% statewide).
The survey, conducted by MDR from August 15, 2022 to September 26, 2022, consisted of a phone and online survey of 405 Maine adults age 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 4.9% at the 95% confidence interval. This means that if the entire population of Maine adults were surveyed, we could expect results to be within +/-4.9%% of our results. The margin of error was higher for subgroups because the overall sample size for these groups was smaller. MDR is a public policy research firm located in Portland, Maine. MDR conducts research and evaluation to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities and make them a better and more equitable place to live.