Every time Mary South buys groceries or fills up her car with gas, there’s significant strain on her family’s budget.

So South makes deliberate choices about what to buy, how much to buy, and whether to go out to eat or cook meals at home.

She was among 802 Utahns surveyed by Dan Jones & Associates about their views on the economy, whether they are financially better or worse off than a year ago, and if they think they will be better or worse off 12 months from now.

South said her household is worse off financially than it was a year ago and she’s not optimistic that will change in the coming year.

“My husband lost his job 11 months ago so I’ve had to go back to work. He’s found a new job but it pays significantly less,” she said.

As they try to rein in spending, costs for everything from household necessities such as toilet paper to piano lessons for the kids escalate.

“I feel like everyone is increasing prices for inflation, you know, and then groceries. You know we quit buying certain things because ... it isn’t worth it anymore,” she said.

South doesn’t appear to be alone, according to results of a recent public opinion poll conducted for the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Asked if they were financially better or worse off than they were 12 months ago, 48% of Utahns polled said they were somewhat or much worse off.

One quarter of the poll respondents said they were “about the same” while 11% said they were “much better off” and 18% said they were “somewhat better off.”

The poll, conducted Sept. 24-29, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.23 percentage points.

Ed Vidmar said he, too, is feeling the pinch of rising prices.

“It’s just about everything. I went to buy a sprinkler valve. I used to install sprinklers 20 years ago. I used to buy a sprinkler valve for $10 or $11. I just paid $38 for the same valve,” he said.

Going out to eat for a fast-food burger and fries cost a minimum of $10, a meal that not long ago cost him $5, he said.

Vidmar said he is not optimistic that the economy will improve, at least not while President Joe Biden is in office.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see things improving at all. Our current administration is on this New Green Deal kind of thing. That’s great but wind and solar can’t make the cellphone I’m talking to you on right now. They don’t want to use fossil fuels. It’s like well, it’s partly made of plastic. So how are you going to make a cellphone with a solar panel?” he said.

The Green New Deal aims to create millions of new, high-paying jobs in sectors such as renewable energy, manufacturing and construction, with a focus on job creation in communities that have been historically marginalized.

The poll reflected optimism in the coming year with 43% saying they believe better times lie ahead. Fourteen percent said they believed they would be much better off financially in the next year while 29% projected they would be somewhat better off.

The poll’s youngest respondents, those ages 18-24, were most optimistic about improving conditions with a combined 64% saying they would be much or somewhat better off than they are currently.

Conversely, only 18% of people ages 57 and up said they believed their financial condition would be much or somewhat better.

Another Utahn who responded to the poll, Brian Aldridge of St. George, is also critical of the Biden administration. If former President Donald Trump wins reelection, Aldridge said he believes the economy will improve and there will be fewer restrictions on extraction industries.

Aldridge said he and his wife became very ill with COVID-19, both of them hospitalized in intensive care, and lived with family. About 19 months ago they relocated to St. George from California because they were able to afford a home in Washington County.

He recently retired from working in the tech industry and is considering returning to college to retrain for the next stage of his career.

“So I was thinking of either helping people out by being a financial adviser or in the medical field, I’m still trying to contemplate in my mind which one is better. Which one can I help more people with? Which one can I learn more from?” he said.

He, too, is highly supportive of Trump, saying that he believes he and the rest of the country were better off financially during the former president’s term of office.

“Now I think the whole country is worse off now. I’m definitely worse off than I was three, four years ago when Trump was in office and not only economically, but there are many other things. I feel like our liberties have been taken away from us. It’s serving the far left through this wokeism, the Green New Deal thing. There’s way too much spending. They don’t care about the budget. They don’t care about how much they spend. They don’t care about the normal working person,” Aldridge said.