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Cosumer Confidence, Clunkers & Crops

By Dave Lucas


Albany, NY – New Poll Numbers from Siena Research Institute show Overall New York Consumer Confidence Unchanged in July as the economy and the weather weigh heavily on the public. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

The Survey says State consumer confidence didn't budge from June to July. At the same time, the nation's confidence dropped 4.8 points. That's not neccessarily good news: Siena Research Institute Director Doug Lonnstrom warns New York may have some "catching up" to do, as we typically lag behind national trends.

At 64.3, New York's overall consumer confidence is 1.7 points below the nation's 66.0 confidence level. Lonnstrom says consumers named gasoline and grocery costs as their top issues. 55 percent of all New Yorkers said current gasoline prices are having a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition, up one point from last month. There is one finding from the survey that has surprised the veteran pollster: politics appears to be influencing confidence. Democrats' overall confidence is twelve points higher than Republicans' and members of the two parties see entirely different futures facing our state. Nearly as many Democrats are optimistic as are pessimistic about the future but among Republicans vast majorities expect difficult economic conditions to persist and a plurality do not believe they personally will be better off financially a year from today.

As for good news, Lonnstrom says buying plans for cars are the highest they've been since October 2007. He feels the federal government's "Cash for Clunkers" program may not play out as such a good idea in the long run, in essence "borrowing from the future."

"Cash For Clunkers" has blown through nearly $1 Billion In 6 Days and may be closed today. It's brought people into showrooms in hopes getting more than the $500 to $1000 they could have hoped for to trade in their gas-guzzler. Jack Byrne owns a popular Ford dealership in Mechanicville, where he's witnessed a large uptick in showroom traffic. Byrne received a letter from Ford advising dealers to wrap up their Clunkers sales TODAY.

Adding to the economic woes: the weather. Governor David Paterson has called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to designate as agriculture disaster areas 17 New York counties, including Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia and Greene, due to crop damage caused by the seemingly relentless rains.

Aaron Gabriel, the crops and soils educator in Washington County, say dairy farmers, alrady suffering from low milk prices on the open market, have been affected by a poor quality hay crop. He notes that excessive rain has also affected vegetable crops, particulary potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.

There's a sliver of optimism: The Siena poll found that although food costs worry over six in ten residents, as a state New York is better off than the near panic of last July, when respondents' concerns ranked in the 8 out of 10 range.

The SRI survey of Consumer Confidence was conducted in July 2009 by random telephone calls to 801 New York State residents over the age of 18. As consumer confidence is expressed as an index number developed after statistical calculations to a series of questions, "margin of error" does not apply. Buying plans, which are shown as a percentage based on answers to specific questions, do have a margin of error of + 3.5 points. Survey cross-tabulations and buying plans can be found HERE.