HPU Poll: North Carolinians Feeling Better About Personal Finances and Business Conditions

HIGH POINT, N.C., March 1, 2016 – According to the latest High Point University Poll’s Consumer Sentiment Index, North Carolinians’ confidence in the economy continues to rise.

The index, based on February HPU Poll data, rises to 89.7. Up from 84.3 last September, this is almost 4 points higher than the 85.9 index registered one year ago in February 2015.

“We continue to see a positive trend in how people in North Carolina feel about the economy,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor. “This new study indicates the highest consumer sentiment index since tracking the data in 2010.”

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:

February 2016 Index Results:

  • Fifty-three 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.
  • Eight percent of North Carolinians – compared to 13 percent in February 2015 – expressed concern that they would be worse off financially a year from now.
  • Thirty-five percent of respondents expect good business conditions in the next 12 months. In February 2015, that number was 38 percent compared to February 2014 when that number was 26 percent.

“Over the past year there has been clear improvement in consumers’ actual financial situation,” says Dr. Peter Summers, assistant professor of economics at HPU. “Households also seem optimistic that this trend will continue. If this optimism translates into consumers’ behavior, we should see the state’s economy continue to strengthen over the coming year.”

HPU Poll - Consumer Sentiment Over Time - Feb. 2016


Current Finances – All AdultsHPU Poll - Current Finances - Feb. 2016

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 2016
Better Off – 53 percent
Worse Off – 25 percent
Same/Neither – 20 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 2 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)


Future Finances – All AdultsHPU Poll - Future Finances - Feb. 2016

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 2016
Better Off – 36 percent
Worse Off – 8 percent
About the same – 51 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 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 2016
Good Times – 35 percent
Bad Times – 33 percent
Neither – 16 percent
Good times with qualifications – 3 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 3 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 11 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 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 2016
Widespread unemployment or depression – 37 percent
Continuous good times – 31 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 16 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 17 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 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?

February 2016
Good time – 60 percent
Bad time – 20 percent
Neither – 8 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 12 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed February 18 – 25, n = 476 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 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 Feb. 18 – 25, 2016. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 476 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 4.5 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/2016/03/44memoC.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 associate director of the HPU Poll.

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