MSU Surveys State Confidence Levels

May 12, 2008
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EAST LANSING — Michigan State University recently completed its State of the State Survey, “a quarterly measure of the state’s trust and confidence in consumer, political and policy issues.”

The report also revealed how people feel about their financial well-being. The survey showed that 56.3 percent of people feel their financial situation is worse off than a year ago, 22.9 percent believe they are in better condition, and 20.9 percent said they are about the same.

Charles Ballard, Ph.D., economist and director of the State of the State Survey, said that the percentage of people who feel their financials are worse off than a year ago is the highest it has been since 1994.

Ballard stressed some significant positives, noting that after adjusting for inflation, per capita personal income in Michigan was higher in 2007 than it has ever been, but he noted that it is an average and doesn’t mean that “everybody is sharing equally.” He also gave perspective on the unemployment rate, saying that in 1982, the unemployment rate in Michigan reached almost 17 percent.

Although the majority said they are worse off than a year ago, a combined total of only 19.6 percent said their current financial state is either “poor” or “not so good.” People reporting their current financial circumstance as “good” is 41.2 percent; 34.1 said “just fair,” and 5.1 percent said excellent.

When looking at a year from now, 43.9 percent said they believe they will be “better off,” while 34.8 percent said “worse off” and 21.3 said “about the same.”

“People are hopeful about the future,” said Ballard. “It is still true that people tend to be more optimistic about the future than you might think. About one out of six households with incomes of under $20,000 say their financial situation is excellent or good. Then on the flip side of that, of people with incomes of over $70,000, almost 8 percent say their situation is fair or poor.”

Not as hopeful is people’s perception of the unemployment rate, with 49 percent saying they think it will be worse than it is now. Sixty-eight percent said the current business conditions in the community are experiencing “bad times.”

“I think the overall situation is not as bad as it is often portrayed, but there are plenty of folks who find it kind of a cloudy economy. If people are down about the economy, that does have the potential to lead to a psychology that makes it difficult to get out.

“If you think things are going to be good, that might make you more willing to get up and do the things that will help make things good.

“I’m not saying that I’m happy with the current situation,” Ballard cautioned, “but just to try to provide a little perspective, we’ve been through way, way worse than this.”

The survey sample size was 1,012 and interviews were conducted between January and March 2008 with a 37 percent completion rate. The survey demographics came back as 46.7 percent males, 53.3 percent female, 77.2 percent white, 14.8 percent African-American, 33 percent self-reported Republican, and 22.8 percent self-reported Democrat.

MSU’s State of the State Survey is administered by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, specializing in political leadership, public policy and survey research, in the College of Social Science.

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