HPU Poll: Recovery in North Carolinians’ Consumer Confidence May Be Stalling

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 7, 2015 – North Carolinians have somewhat restored their confidence in the economy, but the latest High Point University Poll’s consumer sentiment index hints that any upward momentum may have slowed.

The index, based on September/October HPU Poll data, dips slightly to 84.3. It is the third reading of the index in a row that is 80 points or above. It is down from 85.9 in February 2015, but it is almost 14 points higher than the 70.4 index registered two years ago 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.

-Forty-five percent of North Carolina residents said they are better off financially than they were a year ago, compared to 47 percent of respondents in February 2015.

-Twelve percent of North Carolinians – compared to 13 percent in February 2015 – 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-two percent of respondents expected good business conditions in the next 12 months. In February 2015, that number was 38 percent compared to September 2013 when that number was 23 percent.

“We continue to track consumer sentiment in North Carolina, and the outlook has remained optimistic compared to first collecting this data in 2010,” says Brian McDonald, assistant director of the HPU Poll. “The next few months may give us additional clues regarding which direction the economy and consumers’ views are headed.”

“The HPU Poll results indicate that North Carolinians’ remain upbeat about their current situation,” says Dr. Peter Summers, assistant professor of economics at HPU. “At the same time, there are signs that consumers are more apprehensive about the country’s future economic conditions. Although most respondents thought they would be no worse off financially in a year, only 32 percent said that the country as a whole would have a good year. This was down from 38 percent in the February 2015 survey.”

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?

September/October 2015HPU Poll - current finances - Oct. 2015

Better Off – 45 percent

Worse Off – 25 percent

Same/Neither – 29 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed September 26 – October 1, n = 446 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.6 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.

September/October 2015HPU Poll - future finances - Oct. 2015

Better Off – 33 percent

Worse Off – 12 percent

About the same – 49 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed September 26 – October 1, n = 446 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.6 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?

September/October 2015

Good Times – 32 percent

Bad Times – 38 percent Neither – 15 percent

Good times with qualifications – 3 percent

Bad times with qualifications – 3 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 10 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed September 26 – October 1, n = 446 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.6 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?

September/October 2015

Widespread unemployment or depression – 36 percent

Continuous good times – 29 percent

Neither/Mix of both – 22 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 14 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed September 26 – October 1, n = 446 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.6 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?

September/October 2015

Good time – 54 percent

Bad time – 26 percent

Neither – 13 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 7 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed September 26 – October 1, n = 446 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.6 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 HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Sept. 26 – Oct. 1, 2015. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 446 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 4.6 percentage points for all adult respondents. The data is 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/2015/10/41memoCS.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.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://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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