HPU Poll: North Carolina Consumer Sentiment Remains Low Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

HIGH POINT, N.C., Dec. 1, 2020 – According to the latest High Point University Poll, the Consumer Sentiment Index shows that North Carolinians’ opinions about the economy and their personal finances have remained low. The newest index, based on November 2020 HPU Poll data, is recorded at 74.4. That number is consistent with what an April/May 2020 HPU Poll found.

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 most recent HPU Poll indicates that consumer sentiment in North Carolina has remained low as we head into the holiday season,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “North Carolinians are provided an opportunity to voice their opinion on a variety of topics through the HPU Poll, including how they feel about their own finances and the current economic climate.”

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

November 2020 Index Results:

– 28% of North Carolina residents said they are better off financially than they were a year ago, compared to 42% of respondents in April/May 2020.

– 36% of North Carolinians believe they will be better off financially a year from now.

– 23% of respondents said they expect bad business conditions in the next 12 months. In April/May 2020, that number was 48%.

– 27% of respondents said that during the next five years or so, the country will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression.

– 34% of North Carolina residents said now is a bad time to make a major household purchase, compared to 54% in April/May 2020.

“Consumer sentiment is relatively less pessimistic as we have found ways to adapt and look forward to availability of vaccines,” says Dr. Daniel Hall, chair and associate professor of economics. “Hopefully, the change in sentiment will predict spending better than the sentiment level.”

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 2020
Better Off – 28%
Worse Off – 33%
Same/Neither – 36%
Don’t know/Refused – 3%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

April/May 2020
Better Off – 42%
Worse Off – 29%
Same/Neither – 28%
Don’t know/Refused – 1%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

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 2020
Better Off – 36%
Worse Off – 17%
About the same – 36%
Don’t know/Refused – 10%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

April/May 2020
Better Off – 36%
Worse Off – 9%
About the same – 46%
Don’t know/Refused – 9%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

Business Conditions – All Adults

Now turning to business conditions in the country as a whole, do you think that during the next 12 months we’ll have good times financially, or bad times, or what?

November 2020
Good Times – 19%
Bad Times – 23%
Neither – 28%
Good times with qualifications – 12%
Bad times with qualifications – 8%
Don’t know/Refused – 11%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

April/May 2020
Good Times – 22%
Bad Times – 48%
Neither – 10%
Good times with qualifications – 8%
Bad times with qualifications – 3%
Don’t know/Refused – 10%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

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 2020
Widespread unemployment or depression – 27%
Continuous good times – 17%
Neither/Mix of both – 48%
Don’t know/Refused – 8%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

April/May 2020
Widespread unemployment or depression – 42%
Continuous good times – 38%
Neither/Mix of both – 9%
Don’t know/Refused – 11%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

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 2020
Good time – 25%
Bad time – 34%
Neither – 32%
Don’t know/Refused – 10%

(All adult North Carolina resident online sample, surveyed Nov. 17 – 21, 2020, n = 1000 and credibility interval of +/- 3.2%)

April/May 2020
Good time – 31%
Bad time – 54%
Neither – 12%
Don’t know/Refused – 4%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Nov. 17 – 21, 2020 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 1000 adults interviewed online. The Survey Research Center contracted with Lucid (https://luc.id/) to acquire this sample, and fielded the online survey using its Qualtrics platform. 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 3.2 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.1 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.06 (based on the weighting). The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, 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/2020/12/77memoC.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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