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Americans blame oil companies, speculators for prices

@CNNMoney May 9, 2011: 12:01 PM ET
According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, Americans blame oil companies and speculators for the spike in gas prices.

According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, Americans blame oil companies and speculators for the spike in gas prices.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The high price of gasoline is changing the driving and spending habits of Americans, and the public blames speculators and oil companies for the price spike, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey.

Sixty-three percent of Americans say they have cut back on driving due to the high price of gas. And almost six in ten report spending less on other items due to the rise in prices at the pump, a sign of a spillover effect into the broader economy.

Meanwhile, almost four in ten Americans say they have changed their vacation plans due to higher prices.

On Monday, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded stood at $3.96, according to AAA, only 15 cents below the record high of $4.11 reported on July 17, 2008.

Asked who is to blame, most Americans point to speculators and oil companies for the recent increase in gas prices, and three-quarters say that oil companies profits are too high.

Sixty-one percent of respondents say oil companies deserve a great deal of blame for prices, while 27% say they deserve some blame. Oil speculators also figure prominently in the blame game, with 59% saying they deserve a great deal of blame, while 31% say they deserve some blame.

Meanwhile, politicians escape relatively scot-free. Only a quarter say that President Obama or the GOP in Congress deserve a great deal of blame for gas prices.

Does all the worry mean Americans are pushing the panic button? Not yet. Only one in six say that the nation is in a state of crisis due to high gasoline prices; another 66% describe it as a major problem, but not a crisis.

Speculators aren't to blame

Some measure of relief might be on the way. After a month and a half of daily increases, gas prices have dropped for four consecutive days. Separately, crude oil prices fell sharply last week, which should translate into lower gasoline prices down the road.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 29-May 1, with 1,034 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

All interviews were completed before news of Osama bin Laden's death was reported.  To top of page

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