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Siena Poll: Consumer Confidence Still Down, But Not Out

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

A Siena Poll finds New Yorkers have mixed emotions when it comes to consumer sentiment.
Consumer confidence in upstate New York has bounced back slightly in June after tanking in April. According to a poll released Wednesday by the Siena College Research Institute, the New York State Index of Consumer Sentiment in the second quarter of 2020 stands at 71 percent, up 4.6 points from the last measurement in the first quarter of 2020.

Siena pollster Doug Lonnstrom:

"These are very horrible times for everybody, but in general, a little bit of good news compared to the bad news. For instance, if we look, New York state is up, roughly about five points in consumer sentiment, while the nation was down 11. So, we closed the gap, a substantial amount. We're looking a heck of a lot better. We're still behind the nation but we're looking better than we did. The Index has two components, current and future. If we look at the current component, New York State was up about 8, the nation was down about 17. And if we look at the future component, New York was up about two. Nation was down about 7."

Lonnstrom says all indices for New York are below their breakeven points, at which optimism and pessimism balance, for the second consecutive quarter.

"New York City did the best. Upstate's kind of flat, frankly. And New York City was up about 8 points. So the increase in the state came from New York City, it did not come from upstate."

Lonnstrom adds second quarter buying plans for things like vehicles, furniture, consumer electronics and new homes are all up slightly from the first quarter, while concern about gas prices is at its lowest percentage in the 12 years Siena has tracking of the impact of gas prices on New York consumers.

"It's down to 25 percent because nobody's going anywhere so they're not buying any gas. If we go back a year ago it was 44 percent were concerned anbout gas prices."

Lonnstrom notes 58 percent (up from 55 percent) of state residents says the amount of money they spend on groceries is having either a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their finances.

Ward Todd, President and CEO of the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce, says while some businesses have been struggling and are fearful for the rest of the year if things don't open up, others have weathered the pandemic rather well.

"Things were closed from mid-March all the way through the most part for a good part of May. When June hit there seemed to be a real pent-up need or desire to get out and spend. Most of our restaurants, I think partly fueled by a Facebook group we started called Ulster Eateries United, many of them saw lots of people doing takeout and delivery and outside dining as well. A number of businesses have really seen June be a great month and have told us anecdotally that July has started out strong as well. So it really has to do with how long can this good stretch of business continue for many of them. Preliminarily, it has been a good last 45 days or so for many businesses locally."

But the Siena poll finds despite reopening, most people say they are worse off and expect the economy to weaken. Again, Lonnstrom:

"Looking forward, people are not as optimistic as they were, you know, before the virus."

This Siena College Poll was conducted June 28 – July 9, 2020 by random telephone calls to 410 New York adults via landline and cell phones and 400 responses drawn from a proprietary online panel of New Yorkers. Respondent sampling via phone was initiated by asking for the youngest person in the household. The overall results has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points including the design effects resulting from weighting when applied to buying plans and/or the perceived impacts of gas and food prices. As consumer sentiment is expressed as an index number developed after statistical calculations to a series of questions, “margin of error” does not apply to those indices. Telephone sampling was conducted via a stratified dual frame probability sample of landline (from ASDE Survey Sampler) and cell phone (from Dynata) telephone numbers from within New York State weighted to reflect known population patterns. Data from the telephone and web samples were blended and statistically adjusted by age, race/ethnicity, gender and party to ensure representativeness.

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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