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

HIGH POINT, N.C., May 14, 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 dropped since last fall. The newest index, based on April-May 2020 HPU Poll data, is recorded at 74.4. That number is down 12 points from October 2019 when it was 86.4. The HPU Poll recorded 73.3 in April 2010, the first time the poll measured consumer sentiment in North Carolina.

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 declined since we last tracked this index at the end of 2019,” 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.

May 2020 Index Results:

– 42% of North Carolina residents said they are better off financially than they were a year ago, compared to 35% of respondents in October 2019.

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

– 48% of respondents said they expect bad business conditions in the next 12 months. In October 2019, that number was 20%.

– 42% of respondents said that during the next five years or so that the country will have periods of widespread unemployment or depression.

– 54% of North Carolina residents said now is a bad time to make a major household purchase, compared to 17% in October 2019.

“The National Bureau of Economic Research has not officially announced we are in a recession yet,” says Dr. Daniel Hall, chair and associate professor of economics. “However, this consumer sentiment reflects the presence of a recession is common knowledge. Unemployment rates reported from the Bureau of Labor Statistics jumped from 3.9% to 4.4% over March and to 14.7% over April. Unemployment is the figure that consumers are most aware of and thereby has the large effect on their sentiment. Typically, we are surprised by a recession, but this time we accepted a recession in order to ‘flatten the curve.’ Sentiment could rebound even before economic indicators as restrictions are lifted responsibly.”

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?

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

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

September/October 2019
Better Off – 35%
Worse Off – 23%
Same/Neither – 39%
Don’t know/Refused – 3%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, 2019, n = 1009 and credibility interval of +/- 4%)

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.

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

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

September/October 2019
Better Off – 39%
Worse Off – 14%
About the same – 38%
Don’t know/Refused – 9%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, 2019, n = 1009 and credibility interval of +/- 4%)

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?

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 landline and cell phone sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

September/October 2019
Good Times – 28%
Bad Times – 20%
Neither – 27%
Good times with qualifications – 9%
Bad times with qualifications – 6%
Don’t know/Refused – 10%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, 2019, n = 1009 and credibility interval of +/- 4%)

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?

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 landline and cell phone sample, surveyed April 16 to May 1, 2020, n = 404 and margin of sampling error is +/- 4.9%)

September/October 2019
Widespread unemployment or depression – 21%
Continuous good times – 25%
Neither/Mix of both – 41%
Don’t know/Refused – 13%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, 2019, n = 1009 and credibility interval of +/- 4%)

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?

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

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

September/October 2019
Good time – 39%
Bad time – 17%
Neither – 30%
Don’t know/Refused – 14%

(All adult North Carolina resident phone and online sample, surveyed Sept. 27 – Oct. 4, 2019, n = 1009 and credibility interval of +/- 4%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers working remotely through the High Point University Survey Research Center, calling on April 16 – May 1. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 404 adults interviewed on landline or cellular telephones. The Survey Research Center contracted with dynata, formerly Research Now SSI: https://www.dynata.com/ to acquire these samples. The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4.9 percentage points for all adult respondents. 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/2020/05/71memoC.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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