Wisconsin Poll: Gas Prices Are Big Problem

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Wisconsin Poll: Gas Prices Are Big Problem

MADISON, Wis. -- More than two-thirds of Wisconsinites who responded to a new poll say high gasoline prices have changed their driving habits, and half said the prices have caused them financial hardship, according to the Associated Press.

Sixty percent of the 600 people who responded to the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute's telephone survey last week said lawmakers should eliminate the state's gas minimum markup law, which mandates gas stations must charge at least 6 percent more than what they paid for it, reported the AP.

About a third of respondents said they blame domestic oil companies for the price run-ups, and a little more than a third said they expect gas prices will keep rising over the next six months.

Institute president James Miller said the findings reflect a sense among people that gas prices are spiraling out of control. Fears that fuel costs could increase over the winter are adding to their frustration, he said in the AP report.

"For most people ... they can't do much about gasoline. It's not like you can't go to work or drive your children to school. They gotta buy the stuff," Miller told the AP. "People really are starting to feel squeezed by all this."

A gallon of regular unleaded gas averaged $2.82 Thursday, according to AAA. That's down 16 cents from a month ago, but still 77 cents more than the same time last October.

Gas was running $2.69 a gallon at a Madison Mobil station Thursday.

Erin Roth is the executive director of the Wisconsin Petroleum Council, the state's branch of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization that represents hundreds of oil refiners and marketers around the globe. Roth said people hate his industry whether prices are low or high, but it's not to blame, according to the AP report.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita "crippled" the industry's ability to make gasoline and ship it, tightening supplies, reported AP.

"If you dissect how the industry works and analyze what happened during Katrina and Rita, any economic major would understand it was market forces that forced prices higher," Roth said in the report.

Poor people probably are feeling a pinch, he told the AP, but prices are coming down as people use less gas and imported oil flows into the country.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is a nonprofit organization that studies public policy issues in the state. The telephone survey was conducted between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.