HPU Poll: Consumer Sentiment Remains Optimistic in North Carolina

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 16, 2018 – According to the latest HPU Poll, the Consumer Sentiment Index shows that North Carolinians’ opinion about the economy and their personal finances remains high. The newest index, based on October 2018 HPU Poll data, is recorded at 94.0. The number has remained in the 90s for the past two years.

The HPU Poll’s measure of consumer sentiment is an index that comprises five separate questions asking respondents about different aspects of how they view the U.S. economy and their own personal finances. The HPU Poll has been tracking consumer sentiment in North Carolina since April 2010.

“North Carolinians continue to be optimistic about the economy this year just as they were a year ago,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “We have been tracking consumer sentiment in North Carolina for many years, and have been reporting a positive trend in our last few polls.”

Findings for the individual questions show why the overall index fluctuates year to year, but has remained high, reflecting less pessimism among consumers.

October 2018 Index Results:

– Thirty-nine percent of North Carolina residents say they are better off financially than they were a year ago, compared to 46 percent of respondents in February 2018.

– Ten percent of North Carolinians – compared to 9 percent in February 2018 – express concern that they would be worse off financially a year from now.

– Forty-four percent of respondents say they expect good business conditions in the next 12 months. In February 2018, that number was 41 percent.

– Forty-eight percent of North Carolina residents say now is a good time to make a major household purchase compared to 60 percent a year ago.

“Consumers remain optimistic as we approach the 10th year of this expansion phase in our business cycle that began in June 2009,” says Dr. Daniel Hall, HPU associate professor and chair of the Economics Department. “The expansion phase is typically much longer than the contraction phase, but this expansion phase is one of the longest. It is hard to know when this expansion will eventually end, and the length offers little help in prediction. It could end softly as fiscal and monetary policy slowly wind back their current expansionary programs, or end abruptly if economic shocks like a trade war or a burst of some large asset bubble occur.”

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?

October 2018
Better Off – 39 percent
Worse Off – 20 percent
Same/Neither – 39 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 28-Oct. 7, 2018, n = 921 and credibility interval of +/- 4.2 percent)

February 2018
Better Off – 46 percent
Worse Off – 22 percent
Same/Neither – 31 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 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.

October 2018
Better Off – 43 percent
Worse Off – 10 percent
About the same – 42 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 28-Oct. 7, 2018, n = 921 and credibility interval of +/- 4.2 percent)

February 2018
Better Off – 41 percent
Worse Off – 9 percent
About the same – 46 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 4 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 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?

October 2018
Good Times – 44 percent
Bad Times – 18 percent
Neither – 27 percent
Good times with qualifications – 2 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 1 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 8 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 28-Oct. 7, 2018, n = 921 and credibility interval of +/- 4.2 percent)

February 2018
Good Times – 41 percent
Bad Times – 26 percent
Neither – 18 percent
Good times with qualifications – 3 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 2 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 10 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 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?

October 2018
Widespread unemployment or depression – 21 percent
Continuous good times – 35 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 35 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 8 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 28-Oct. 7, 2018, n = 921 and credibility interval of +/- 4.2 percent)

February 2018
Widespread unemployment or depression – 37 percent
Continuous good times – 40 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 15 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 8 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 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?

October 2018
Good time – 48 percent
Bad time – 12 percent
Neither – 29 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 11 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 28-Oct. 7, 2018, n = 921 and credibility interval of +/- 4.2 percent)

February 2018
Good time – 60 percent
Bad time – 18 percent
Neither – 12 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 10 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 percent)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Sept. 28-Oct. 7, 2018 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 921 adults interviewed online (603 respondents) as well as landline or cellular telephones (318 respondents). The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire these samples, and fielded the online survey using its Qualtrics platform. This is a combined sample of live phone interviews and online interviews. The online sampling is from a panel of respondents, so their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classical margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points to account for a traditional 95 percent confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.2 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.3 (based on the weighting). The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, race, and education level based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. 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/2018/10/61memoC.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, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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