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Siena Poll: Consumer Confidence 'Hovering' Between Optimism, Pessimism

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

A new survey finds consumer sentiment among New Yorkers was largely unchanged from the third to fourth quarters in 2020.

The Siena College Research Institute says its Index of Consumer Sentiment was at 74.8, up 0.4 points from the last measurement in the third quarter of2020. Pollster Doug Lonnstrom:

"You've heard the expression. No news is good news. That's what I think happened here. I'm really surprised at these results . Many people felt 2020 was a really miserable year, maybe one of the worst in history, and yet consumer confidence didn't move. It just stayed flat in all categories, whether men women high-income low-income, no matter what your group was, it just stayed, whether you were young or old, it just stayed flat."

Except, Lonnstrom says, when broken down by political party affiliations.

Click on image to enlarge.

"The Democrats’ enthusiasm shot way up. Their overall index went up 12 points, their current index went up seven, and their future index went up 15. So Democrats loved the election. Now if we look at the Republicans, their overall results are down 14 percent, 14 index points, current are down 11 and and future are down 16. So what happened is, the Democrats were up, Republicans were down, they offset each other, and that's why there was no change in the state. And it’s interesting. The Democrats are now 17 index points ahead of the Republicans, which is a big change from last quarter, and now Democrats have the second highest confidence of any group in this state. The only ones that beat them are the real high-income people, and that stays normal, they're generally pretty optimistic."

Lonnstrom says New York’s overall Index of Consumer Sentiment is 5.9 points below the nation’s Index of 80.7.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, he notes all buying plans, for cars and trucks, consumer electronics, furniture, major home improvements and homes were up from third quarter numbers.

"Home buying plans are up 13 percent. Now that sounds good for the home-buying market, but there's a negative side to that. The survey's showing roughly around 20 percent of the people in New York City want to move out. So if they're going to move out of New York City, they're going to buy a home, but it's going to be somewhere else. And then I saw a survey from United Moving Company that people are moving out of New York at dramatic rates. OK, so they got to buy a home somewhere else. So this home-buying plan being up, may not be good news for New York."

34 percent (up from 30 percent) of all New Yorkers say that current gasoline prices are having a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition. 57 percent (down from 59 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.

The Siena College Poll was conducted Dec 10-16, 2020 by random telephone calls to 404 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 +/- 3.9 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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