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Siena Poll: Consumer Confidence a "Mixed Bag"

By Dave Lucas

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-858066.mp3

Albany, NY – Siena Research Institute today released its monthly New York State Consumer Confidence Index...Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas spoke with Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom.

The latest Siena Poll found New York State consumer confidence increased 4.8 points in August, while the nation's confidence decreased 0.3 points. At 69.1, New York's overall consumer confidence is 3.4 points above the nation's* 65.7 confidence level.

In August, buying plans were up for: computers, 2.4 points to 14.9%. Buying plans were down for: cars/trucks, 1.6 points to 9.9%; furniture, 1.6 points to 15.0%; homes, 0.6 points to 3.5%; and major home improvements, 1.1 points to 13.3%.

"The overall index of consumer confidence is the highest it's been in New York in twenty months," according to Dr. Douglas Lonnstrom, professor of statistics and finance at Siena College and SRI Founding Director. "Although a majority of New Yorkers continue to expect tough economic times this year, the scourge of pessimism is now in retreat across nearly every demographic. The future is looking especially bright to Democrats, NYC'ers, and the young. But, this time a recovery could look different as growing confidence has not yet opened the buying flood gates. Despite cash for clunkers and other incentives, consumers are not convinced that this is the time to buy big ticket items."

Each month since January 1999, the SRI survey establishes a Consumer Confidence index number for New York State consumers. This index number allows a direct comparison of New Yorkers to all Americans ("the nation") as surveyed by the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment index. The SRI survey measures current and future consumer confidence, which combined provides the overall consumer confidence. SRI further looks at confidence in New York State by region (metro New York City and Upstate), age, income, gender and party.

Forty-nine percent of all New Yorkers say that current gasoline prices are having a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition, down six points from last month. Sixty-two percent of state residents indicate that the amount of money they spend on groceries is having either a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their finances. Thirty-nine percent of state residents say that both gasoline and food prices are having either a somewhat or very serious impact on their finances down from a high of 71% in July 2008.

"Concern about high gas prices took a healthy fall this month as for the first time in the year and a half we have tracked it, fewer than fifty percent of New Yorkers are seriously affected by pump prices. Last summer's shock is now a forgotten nightmare as consumers have grown accustomed to filling up for less than $50. But, that could all change if we once again wake up to prices nearing or topping $4.00. And the grocery bill, little change there as over six in ten continue to cringe at the register," according to Dr. Lonnstrom.

The SRI survey of Consumer Confidence was conducted in August 2009 by random telephone calls to 800 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.