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Republicans are literally saying the word ‘inflation’ at 6 times the rate of Democrats ahead of midterm elections

April 18, 2022, 6:56 PM UTC

On New Year’s Day, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) tweeted: “Fighting inflation and lowering costs for the middle class must remain a top congressional priority going into 2022.” Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) also rang in the new year by tweeting about inflation: “Rising prices and inflation won’t be going away with the start of the New Year thanks to #Bidenomics.” So did Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN).

Now that the midterm elections are just a little over six months away, inflation is dominating the political discourse, but new data shows it’s not dominating the discourse evenly.

Republicans are talking about inflation six times more than Democrats, whose control of the House and Senate are at stake.

From January 1 to April 13, lawmakers mentioned inflation nearly 10,000 times in tweets, Facebook posts, press releases, floor statements, and letters to constituents, according to data compiled by public affairs software company Quorum

Republicans made up a total of 8,158 of those mentions, while Democrats accounted for 1,321. Mentions spiked in line with monthly reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks the average change over time in prices paid by urban consumers.

But where the CPI tracks inflation on a backward-looking basis, economists think the future trend of inflation has to do with “inflation expectations,” and that’s what makes the partisan divide on inflation mentions newsworthy.

Anchors away

Quorum identified 421 mentions of inflation on April 12 alone, when the BLS announced that inflation has risen faster over the past year than at any time in the last four decades, with a CPI reading of 8.5%. The report showed that inflation rose more between February and March than between January and February, as the war in Ukraine continues to disrupt global markets and supply chains. 

The politician who has mentioned inflation the most since January 1 is Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), chair of the House Republican Conference, with 148 mentions. Close behind are House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), with 118 mentions, and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), with 113. 

Democrats, none of whom are in the top 10 according to Quorum’s data, have not completely shied away from the topic. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is not up for reelection this year, mentioned inflation the most of all Democrats—83 times. She’s followed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), with 45 mentions, and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), with 33.

By focusing so intensely on high inflation, Republican lawmakers could, paradoxically, play a key role in making sure it sticks around, since inflation expectations are widely considered to directly influence actual inflation. When businesses expect higher inflation, they adjust prices accordingly, which can then lead workers to demand higher wages, creating a phenomenon known as a wage-price spiral that’s hard to control. One such cycle established itself during the so-called Great Inflation of the 1970s and ’80s. And the media and politicians talking about high inflation is a major way to “anchor” an expectation of high inflation.

Earlier in April, UBS predicted that inflation would peak with March’s CPI report, followed by a sharp decrease as supply-chain constraints ease and consumers shift the focus of their spending. The ultimate trajectory of U.S. inflation will depend, however, on the Federal Reserve’s efforts to combat it, which have so far been slow-going.

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