A University of New Hampshire (UNH) poll released Wednesday revealed that many Mainers are struggling financially and feeling much less secure than they were just one year ago.
Not only are the majority of Mainers worse off than they were at this time last year, but they are also struggling to even afford basic necessities, like housing, food, and electricity.
Fifty-seven percent of Mainers reported that they are in a worse financial position now than they were at this time next year. Just 9 percent of respondents said that their financial situation had improved.
Interestingly, the percentage of respondents reporting a worse financial condition varied notably based on a number of demographic characteristics, including political affiliation.
Approximately 70 percent of Republicans and Independents reported being in a worse place financially, while only 36 percent of Democrats indicated being in the same position.
The poll also revealed that worsening financial circumstances are currently more prevalent among younger Mainers. Approximately 70 percent of those ages 18 to 49 found themselves in a worse position than they were at this time last year, compared to just 49 percent of those 50 to 64 and 42 percent of those ages 65 and older.
Furthermore, highly educated Mainers reported worsening financial circumstances at a lower rate than their less highly educated counterparts. Sixty-seven percent of those with a high school education or less, alongside 62 percent of those who attended technical school or completed some college.
Meanwhile, 50 percent of those with a college education and just 27 percent of those who have completed postgraduate work reported similar experiences.
Surprisingly, worsening financial conditions were not linearly correlated with a greater household income. In fact, the percentage of those who report worse financial circumstances compared to last year actually seems to increase as household income increases, but only to a point. Those making $150,000 a year or more, however, reported such financial struggles at the lowest rate — 42 percent.
The UNH poll also revealed that the majority of Mainers are struggling to afford basic necessities to some degree.
More than one-third reported struggling with this “a lot,” while an additional 28 percent said that they struggled with this “somewhat.”
Age also appears to be closely related to the likelihood of struggling to afford the basics right now.
Nearly 9 in 10 of those Mainers ages 18 to 34 reported struggling either “a lot” or “somewhat” with affording their basic needs. This figure drops to 69 percent for 35-to-49 year olds.
Nearly two-thirds of Mainers between the ages of 50 and 64 reported similar struggles, while just 41 percent of those over the age of 65 said the same thing.
Different regions of Maine also appear to have been impacted differently by the current economic climate.
Downeast Maine seems to be most heavily impacted by the current state of the economy, with three-quarters of those from the area reporting difficulties affording their basic needs.
Those from Central Maine reported similar struggles at a rate of 66 percent.
Northern (62 percent) and Southern (60 percent) Mainers appear to be faring the best right now with regard to their ability to cover essential costs.
For the most part, household income is tied to Mainers’ ability to afford the basics as would be expected with one notable exception.
Those who fall into the next-to-highest income bracket reported struggling to cover essential expenses with the second greatest frequency (72 percent), followed only by those making less than $45,000 annually (77 percent).
When asked what their expected financial health would be a year from now, the results were bleak: 44 percent of Mainers predicted that they would be, yet again, in a worse position. Only 10 percent said they believe their situation will improve.
The UNH poll also asked Mainers a number of other questions aimed at gauging their financial health.
When asked if this were a good time for them to buy a major household item, 44 percent of Mainers said that it was not. This proportion was roughly consistent across all income levels, except for those making $150,000 or more a year.
Among members of the top income bracket, just 34 percent of respondents indicated that this would not be a good time to make such a purchase.
In addition to this, 62 percent of Mainers stated that they “postponed or decided not to make a major purchase due to higher costs.”
Again, roughly the same percentage of respondents from nearly all income brackets reported facing this situation. Only among those making $150,000-plus annually was this a less common experience, affecting only 40 percent of respondents.
The data for this poll was collected by UNH via an online survey that was available between August 17, 2023 and August 21, 2023.
Click here to read the full results of the poll.