University of South Florida


National survey by USF researchers shows voter opinions on inflation, impact of politics on mental health, election distrust and social media use

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Findings detail impacts of inflation and where voters stand on important issues; show politics as ‘source of stress’ for many.

By Althea Johnson, University Communications and Marketing

Researchers at the University of South Florida have released findings from a nationwide survey that measures attitudes related to key election issues. The survey, sponsored by Cyber Florida at USF, addresses how Americans feel about topics including inflation, the impact of politics on voters’ mental health and social media usage.

Among the findings:

Heading into an election year, most Americans say that inflation has negatively impacted their quality of life, and a large majority remain dissatisfied with the federal government’s handling of the issue.

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans say that inflation has…
    • Impacted their ability to pay their bills (65%)
    • Impacted their travel plans over the past year (68%)
    • Forced them to draw down their personal savings (65%)
  • A large majority (87%) say that inflation has impacted how much money they have left after paying their bills each month, while 60% say that they have less money available for a personal emergency than they did 12 months ago.
  • Only 22% of voters say that they’re at least “somewhat satisfied” with the federal government’s handling of inflation, while nearly half (47%) say that they are “very dissatisfied.”

Consistent with national trends, a majority of Americans expressed dissatisfaction with the job that President Biden is doing on key policy issues, especially when it came to immigration and border security:

  • Jobs and the Economy: 42% Approve 54% Disapprove
  • Foreign Policy: 35% Approve 58% Disapprove
  • Immigration/Border Security: 31% Approve 64% Disapprove
  • Unifying Americans: 37% Approve 56% Disapprove

More than two-thirds of registered voters describe politics as a “source of stress,” with many reporting disruptions to their social and mental well-being as a result.

  • 68% say that politics are at least a “minor source of stress” for them, with 21% describing politics as a “major source of stress.”
  • 16% say that politics has caused them to “lose sleep” over the past month.
  • 35% say that they have lost their temper over politics during the same time period.
  • 53% have spent more time than they’d like thinking about politics over the past month.
  • More than a quarter say that politics has caused conflict among their friends (28%) and within their families (28%).

A majority of Americans rely on social media at least “a little” to stay informed about politics, but most describe the political environment on social media in negative terms.

  • More than a quarter of respondents (26%) say that they rely on social media “a great deal” to stay informed about politics and current events, while another 34% say that they rely on it at least “a little.”
  • Social media users chose decidedly negative terms to describe the political discussions they encounter on social media. The most commonly selected adjectives included:
    • One-Sided 50%
    • Frustrating 49%
    • Informative 42%
    • Angry 33%
    • Hateful 32%

Social media users are slightly more likely than non-social media users to report politics as a source of stress.

  • Among voters who do not use social media, 57% described politics as at least a “minor” source of stress, with 15% describing it as a “major” source of stress.
  • Conversely, among those with at least one active social media account, 69% described politics as at least a “minor” source of stress, while 22% described it as a “major” source of stress.

A significant portion of Republican voters continue to express distrust in the integrity of American elections, including doubts over whether their individual votes will be accurately counted in this year’s election.

  • While a majority of registered voters (63%) believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, only 29% of Republican voters agree. Conversely, 54% of Republican voters don’t believe that President Biden legitimately won the election, while 17% say they are “unsure.”
  • Two-thirds of voters (67%) say they are at least “somewhat confident” that “this year’s presidential election will be conducted fairly.” However, a majority of registered Republicans say that they are either “not very” (38%) or “not at all confident” (16%) that the election will be conducted fairly.
  • Three quarters of registered voters (76%) are confident that their individual votes will be counted accurately this year, though 39% of registered Republicans disagreed.

Heading into the 2024 presidential election, Democratic and Republican voters hold decidedly negative opinions of one another.

  • When presented with a list of both positive and negative traits, the most common terms that Democrats used to describe Republican voters were:
    • Hypocritical 84%
    • Selfish 83%
    • Mean 80%
    • Patriotic 50%
  • When presented with the same list, the most common terms that Republicans used to describe Democratic voters were:
    • Hypocritical 86%
    • Selfish 77%
    • Lazy 67%
    • Mean 65%

The nationwide survey included a representative sample of 1,500 registered voters, fielded Jan. 23-27, 2024. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/- 2.5%. The complete results can be found here.

This report marks the first of four surveys set to be conducted quarterly over the course of the year. Subsequent results will continue to emphasize how social media usage affects political polarization, election-related stress and belief in election-related misinformation.

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