HPU Poll: Wavering Consumer Sentiment Among North Carolinians

HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 28, 2019 – According to the latest HPU Poll, the Consumer Sentiment Index shows that North Carolinians feel less optimistic about the economy and their personal finances. The newest index, based on February 2019 HPU Poll data, is recorded at 86.2. The index previously remained in the 90s between November 2016 and October 2018.

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. HPU’s Survey Research Center has been tracking consumer sentiment in North Carolina through the HPU Poll since April 2010.

“The most recent HPU Poll indicates a slight decline in consumer sentiment, despite tracking consumer sentiment in North Carolina for many years and reporting a positive trend in our last few polls,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “Our poll is a snapshot in time regarding how North Carolinians are feeling about a particular topic at that time. We will continue to track consumer sentiment to see if this trend continues.”

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

February 2019 Index Results:

– Thirty-six percent of North Carolina residents say they are better off financially than they were a year ago compared to 39 percent of respondents in October 2018.

– Fourteen percent of North Carolinians express concern that they would be worse off financially a year from now compared to 10 percent in October 2018.

– Thirty-four percent of respondents say they expect good business conditions in the next 12 months compared to 44 percent in October 2018.

– Forty-one percent of North Carolina residents say now is a good time to make a major household purchase compared to 48 percent in October 2018.

“The decline in the index was driven by a significant fall in households’ optimism about the future compared to the October poll,” says Dr. Peter Summers, associate professor of economics. “The fall was especially large for households’ outlook for the country as a whole, but also for their own personal financial situation. While it’s hard to point to any particular cause, the stock market volatility in December and January, coupled with the partial government shutdown, may have increased respondents’ uncertainty about the future.”

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 2019

Better Off – 36 percent

Worse Off – 23 percent

Same/Neither – 37 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 18-24, 2019, n = 881 and credibility interval of +/- 4.5 percent)

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)

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 2019

Better Off – 35 percent

Worse Off – 14 percent

About the same – 43 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 9 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 18-24, 2019, n = 881 and credibility interval of +/- 4.5 percent)

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)

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 2019

Good Times – 34 percent

Bad Times – 26 percent

Neither – 24 percent

Good times with qualifications – 2 percent

Bad times with qualifications – less than 1 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 12 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 18-24, 2019, n = 881 and credibility interval of +/- 4.5 percent)

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)

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 2019

Widespread unemployment or depression – 22 percent

Continuous good times – 26 percent

Neither/Mix of both – 42 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 10 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 18-24, 2019, n = 881 and credibility interval of +/- 4.5 percent)

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)

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 2019

Good time – 41 percent

Bad time – 18 percent

Neither – 30 percent

Don’t know/Refused – 11 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 18-24, 2019, n = 881 and credibility interval of +/- 4.5 percent)

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)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Feb. 18-24, 2019 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 881 adults interviewed online (599 respondents) as well as landline or cellular telephones (282 respondents). The Survey Research Center contracted with Dynata, formerly Research Now SSI: https://www.dynata.com/ 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 4.5 percentage points to account for a traditional 95 percent confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.3 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.4 (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/2019/02/64memoC.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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