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Poll: Confidence Falls Among NY Consumers

person pumping gas

A new poll shows a drop in consumer confidence across New York state.

The Siena College Research Institute poll released Wednesday pegs overall confidence at 90.5 in the third quarter, down from 92.1 in the second quarter.  

Current confidence slid down to 97 from 97.4 in the second quarter, while future confidence fell to 86.4 from 88.8 in the second quarter.

Pollster Dr. Douglas Lonnstrom is professor of statistics at Siena College.  "All of these numbers are positive right now. By positive I mean optimism is greater than pessimism. So index numbers down around 75, 76, that's the break-even point between when people are optimistic and pessimistic and balance out. We're now numbers up in the 80's and 90's so event though it's down, they're still good numbers."

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Lonnstrom notes consumer sentiment is somewhat dampened by the rising price of gas.   "The hurricanes affected the refineries down in Texas. There were tankers offshore, loaded with oil but couldn't get into the port. So there's no question there was a direct correlation. The other thing with gas prices — it hits people immediately. Some people are filling their tanks one or two times a week, so they feel that. If it goes up 10 cents they really feel it. It cost $40 last week and cost $50 this week. That's immediate impact."

In mid-September, around the time Siena was polling,  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on authorities to monitor gasoline prices after Hurricane Harvey sent prices up as much as 13 percent across New York.  "Since the storm, all the suppliers are back on line. Yet the average price of gasoline here in New York is 13 percent higher than it was a month ago. We cannot let natural disasters become an excuse to charge an arm and a leg at the pump."

Schumer wants the feds to pressure major oil companies to lower prices as quickly as they raise them. Lonnstrom says despite gasoline getting more expensive, nearly 20 percent of New Yorkers plan to buy a new vehicle in the near future.   "If gas prices stay high and don't come back down again, then I think you could see this number drop when we do the next quarter."

Lonnstrom believes most people view the higher prices as temporary. He is concerned about the survey's finding that home-buying intent among consumers has been cut almost in half.   "I think people are getting concerned about interest rates. There's stories out there that there are fewer homes on the market, and that's making it harder for people to buy houses. House prices have been up. People who were under water before are now above water because the value of their house went up, so prices have gone up."

Lonnstrom observes the stock markets are up, jobs are good; he thinks poll numbers would have been positive had it not been for the two hurricanes and tension over North Korea.  "I think there's a generally positive mood in the country as far as the economy is concerned."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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