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HPU Poll: North Carolinians Mixed on the Economy and Personal Finances

Posted on February 25, 2014.
In: News

HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 25, 2014 – North Carolinians have not fully recovered their confidence in the economy, according to the latest HPU Poll’s Consumer Sentiment Index.
The index, based on HPU Poll data, stands at 73.5 this month. This is slightly higher than the 70.2 index registered in September 2013, but still lower than the reading of 81.9 in fall 2012.

The index itself comprises five separate questions that each ask respondents about a different aspect of how they view the U.S. economy and their own personal finances. Some findings for individual questions show why the overall index remains lower than it was in fall 2012, reflecting continuing pessimism among consumers:

February 2014 Index Results:
-Twenty six percent of respondents expected good business conditions in the next 12 months. In Sept. 2013 that number was 23 percent, but this month’s reading was not quite as high as the level of 31 percent observed in Sept. 2012.
-Fourteen percent of North Carolinians – compared to 21 percent in Sept. 2013 – expressed concern that they would be worse off financially a year from now. In Sept. 2012, only 9 percent thought they would be worse off.
-Thirty-six percent of North Carolina residents said they expected bad times for business conditions in the country as a whole, compared to 39 percent of respondents in Sept. 2013.

“The rise in the overall index since last fall seems to be the result of a slightly more optimistic outlook for the future,” said Dr. Peter Summers, assistant professor of economics at HPU. “It looks like NC households were more pessimistic last fall for some reason, but that seems to have been reversed.”

“As we have tracked consumer sentiment in North Carolina over the years, we have generally seen a good deal of pessimism about current and future economic conditions. This particular set of poll findings is no different,” says Dr. Sadie Leder Elder, associate director of the HPU Poll. “These new numbers are neither the best we have seen nor are they a step in a pessimistic direction. We will continue to watch closely to see if future surveys show signs of a longer term positive trend in how people feel.”

Current Finances – All Adults

We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) better off or worse off financially than you were a year ago?

February 2014
Better Off – 31 percent
Worse Off – 41 percent
Same/Neither – 27 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

September 2013
Better Off – 35 percent
Worse Off – 41 percent
Same/Neither – 24 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

September 2012
Better Off – 31 percent
Worse Off – 42 percent
Same/Neither – 26 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

Future Finances – All Adults

Now looking ahead, do you think that a year from now you (and your family living there) will be better off financially, or worse off, or just about the same as now.

February 2014
Better Off – 28 percent
Worse Off – 14 percent
About the same – 53 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 5 percent

September 2013
Better Off – 27 percent
Worse Off – 21 percent
About the same – 49 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 3 percent

September 2012
Better Off – 27 percent
Worse Off – 9 percent
About the same – 42 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 12 percent

Business Conditions – All Adults

Now turning to business conditions in the country as a whole, do you think that during the next twelve months we’ll have good times financially, or bad times, or what?

February 2014
Good Times – 26 percent
Bad Times – 36 percent
Neither – 19 percent
Good times with qualifications – 8 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 3 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 9 percent

September 2013
Good Times – 23 percent
Bad Times – 39 percent
Neither – 20 percent
Good times with qualifications – 6 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 4 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 7 percent

September 2012
Good Times – 31 percent
Bad Times – 24 percent
Neither – 17 percent
Good times with qualifications – 13 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 2 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 13 percent

Country Future – All Adults

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely, that in the country as a whole we’ll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, or that we have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what?

February 2014
Widespread unemployment or depression – 52 percent
Continuous good times – 25 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 17 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 6 percent

September 2013
Widespread unemployment or depression – 54 percent
Continuous good times – 22 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 20 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 5 percent

September 2012
Widespread unemployment or depression – 32 percent
Continuous good times – 38 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 15 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 15 percent

Major Purchases – All Adults

About the big things people buy for their homes, such as furniture, a refrigerator, stove, television, and things like that. Generally speaking, do you think now is a good time or bad time for people to buy major household items?

February 2014
Good time – 47 percent
Bad time – 31 percent
Neither – 13 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 9 percent

September 2013
Good time – 45 percent
Bad time – 34 percent
Neither – 12 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 9 percent

September 2012
Good time – 46 percent
Bad time – 36 percent
Neither – 12 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 6 percent

The index models its questions on the national Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers (http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/). The HPU Poll plans to field the questions at least once per semester in order to gauge consumer feelings on economic conditions. The High Point University Phillips School of Business and directors of the HPU Poll consulted with the directors of the Surveys of Consumers and other state survey organizations that calculate similar state-wide indexes before it first asked the questions in 2010.

The most recent survey was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on February 16 – 20. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 403 adults with landline or cellular telephones. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample. The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.9 percentage points for these North Carolina residents. The data are weighted when appropriate toward population estimates for cellular and landline telephone use, age, gender and race. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://src.highpoint.edu/

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Dr. Sadie Leder Elder, assistant professor of psychology, serves as the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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