HPU Poll: North Carolinians’ Consumer Sentiment Shows Possible Signs of Recovery

HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 18, 2014 – North Carolinians may be restoring their confidence in the economy, according to the HPU Poll’s newest calculation of its Consumer Sentiment Index.

The index, based on HPU Poll data, stands at 80.0 this month. This is higher than the 73.5 index registered in February 2014 and the 70.4 the index registered in September 2013.

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 is beginning to climb, reflecting less pessimism among consumers:

November 2014 Index Results:

  • Thirty-five percent of respondents expected good business conditions in the next 12 months. In February 2014 that number was 26 percent and in September 2013 that number was 23 percent. This month’s reading is the highest observed since HPU began tracking this question in 2010.
  • Seventeen percent of North Carolinians – compared to 14 percent in February 2014 – expressed concern that they would be worse off financially a year from now. In September 2013, 21 percent thought they would be worse off.
  • Thirty-one percent of North Carolina residents said they expected bad times for business conditions in the country as a whole, compared to 36 percent of respondents in February 2014.

“We have tracked consumer sentiment in North Carolina over several years. We now may be seeing the beginning of a slight uptick in consumer thinking about current and future economic conditions,” says Brian McDonald, MBA, assistant director of the HPU Poll. “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) are better off or worse off financially than you were a year ago?

November 2014
Better Off – 39 percent
Worse Off – 32 percent
Same/Neither – 28 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

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

 

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.

November 2014
Better Off – 26 percent
Worse Off – 17 percent
About the same – 52 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 5 percent

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

 

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?

November 2014
Good Times – 35 percent
Bad Times – 31 percent
Neither – 15 percent
Good times with qualifications – 7 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 4 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 9 percent

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

 

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?

November 2014
Widespread unemployment or depression – 43 percent
Continuous good times – 29 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 20 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 9 percent

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

 

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?

November 2014
Good time – 49 percent
Bad time – 28 percent
Neither – 12 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 10 percent

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

 

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 Nov. 8-13, 2014. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 421 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 4.8 percentage points for these respondents. The data are weighted 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. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2014/11/Public-Poll-34-Consumer-Sentiment.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the assistant director of the HPU Poll.

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