HPU Poll: North Carolinian Consumer Sentiment Remains Optimistic

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HIGH POINT, N.C., March 2, 2017 – The High Point University Poll’s Consumer Sentiment Index shows North Carolinians remaining confident about the economy and their personal finances. This is the first full Consumer Index the HPU Poll had fielded under a new presidential administration.

“This post-inauguration poll shows overall consumer sentiment continues to be near the highest we have recorded in how people in North Carolina feel about the economy,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “Our new poll indicates continuing optimism in consumer sentiment as this new administration begins.”

The index, based on February HPU Poll data, dips slightly to 92.3, but still remains close to its highest recorded level (95.3 in November 2016).

“President Trump’s administration and the Republican controlled Congress have promised to reduce health care costs, decrease business regulations, and decrease business taxes,” says Dr. Daniel Hall, assistant professor of economics. “These policies tend to have a strong effect on businesses’ confidence who may become more open to hiring and less prone to laying off workers. Consumers, recognizing this, become more positive in their sentiments.  Also supporting consumer sentiment is a healthy economy with the Great Recession, almost 10 years old, a fading memory in consumers’ minds.”

The index was 20 points lower when recorded after Former President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 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.

“Although consumers generally remain quite optimistic, the slight drop in the index from November’s value may be due to increased near-term uncertainty,” says Dr. Peter Summers, associate professor of economics. “Compared to November, more people responded that the next year would be worse financially, both for them personally and the country as a whole. One possible explanation is that consumers aren’t sure how President Trump’s campaign promises will be enacted.”


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?

February 2017

Better Off – 43 percent
Worse Off – 19 percent
Same/Neither – 38 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 1 percent

February 2016

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

February 2017

Better Off – 42 percent
Worse Off – 13 percent
About the same – 40 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 5 percent

February 2016

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

February 2017

Good Times – 43 percent
Bad Times – 30 percent
Neither – 11 percent
Good times with qualifications – 8 percent
Bad times with qualifications – 2 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 7 percent

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 – 1 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 2017

Widespread unemployment or depression – 34 percent
Continuous good times – 44 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 18 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 5 percent

February 2016

Widespread unemployment or depression – 43 percent
Continuous good times – 29 percent
Neither/Mix of both – 20 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 9 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 2017

Good time – 55 percent
Bad time – 20 percent
Neither – 11 percent
Don’t know/Refused – 14 percent

February 2016

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


The index models its questions on the national Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers (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 statewide 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. 18-23, 2017. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 451 adults with landline or cellular telephones. 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, race, and party identification. 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 www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2017/03/51memoC.pdf.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at 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 transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

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

Dr. Martin Kifer, associate 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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