Half of North Carolina residents say inflation is worse than expected

Published March 16, 2023

By High Point University Poll

In a new High Point University Poll, nearly half (49%) of North Carolinians said that the inflation of the past few months has been worse than they expected. Another one-third (30%) said inflation has been about as they expected, and only 15% said the inflation has been not as bad as expected.

More than half (51%) of North Carolina residents responding to the survey also said their inflation concerns affected a lot of their spending decisions. More than a third (34%) said inflation concerns affected some of their spending decisions, and only 12% said inflation concerns had not affected them much.

“The current inflation rate of just over 6% does indicate inflation is starting to slow,” said Brandon Dragone, visiting instructor of economics at HPU. “Perhaps higher interest rates have been working to cool spending. But remember, even though inflation is starting to slow, prices are still significantly higher than a couple years ago.”

North Carolinians were also asked to consider how the prices they are currently paying for products compared to last year. The majority said prices are much higher for eggs (68%) and meat (56%). Less than half of the poll respondents said they are paying a much higher price for gas for their cars (49%), fruits and vegetables (42%), milk (41%), natural gas (37%), bread (37%), electronics (34%), clothing (32%), water (27%) and toys (23%).

HPU Poll Inflation and Spending

When thinking about the future, half (50%) of the poll respondents said they believe inflation will be higher 12 months from now, while one-third (31%) said that it will be about the same as now and only nine percent said it would be lower. When asked about five years from now, about two in five (41%) said they believe the rate of inflation will be higher, while about one-quarter (26%) said that it will be about the same.

According to the latest poll, the Consumer Sentiment Index shows that North Carolinians’ opinions about the economy and their personal finances remain low, recorded at 66.4. That number has increased slightly, however, from when the HPU Survey Research Center last reported an index of 61.2 from a January 2023 poll.

“Consumer sentiment remains low mainly because of high inflation and rising interest rates,” said Dr. Jerry Fox, interim chair for the Department of Economics. “The slight improvement in consumer sentiment may be attributable to the slow decline in annual inflation over the last several months. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, annualized CPI inflation has slowly fallen from a high of 8.9% last June to 6.0% in February. Further improvements in consumer sentiment are dependent on additional reductions in inflation.”

HPU Poll Inflation in the Future

The HPU Poll’s measure of consumer sentiment is an index that comprises five separate questions asking respondents about different aspects of how they view the United States economy and their own personal finances.

“The HPU Poll tracks how North Carolinians feel about their own finances and the current economic climate,” said Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “The most recent HPU Poll tracks consumer sentiment in North Carolina increasing slightly.”

NC residents – Prices Currently Paying (March 2023)

Thinking about the prices you are currently paying for products on this list compared to last year, would you say prices are much higher, somewhat higher, about the same as last year, somewhat lower, or much lower in price?
All Adults
  Much higher price Somewhat higher price About the same Somewhat lower Much lower Unsure or don’t buy
Eggs 68 18 7 2 1 4
Meat 56 30 8 2 1 4
Gas for your car 49 29 12 5 1 4
Fruits and vegetables 42 38 12 3 1 4
Milk 41 37 13 2 1 5
Natural gas 37 26 9 3 1 23
Bread 37 39 17 2 1 4
Electronics 34 33 17 3 1 12
Clothing 32 39 19 3 1 5
Water 27 34 26 2 1 9
Toys 23 30 15 3 1 28

 NC residents – Inflation and Spending Decisions (March 2023)

How much have concerns about inflation affected major spending decisions you have made in the new year?

A lot – 51%

Some – 34%

Not much at all – 12%

Unsure – 3%

NC residents – Inflation Expectations (March 2023)

Generally speaking, has the inflation we have seen over the past few months been worse than you expected, not as bad as you expected, or about what you expected?

Worse than expected – 49%

Not as bad as expected – 15%

About as expected – 30%

Unsure – 7%

NC residents – Inflation a Year from Now (March 2023)

Thinking about the future, do you believe inflation will be higher, lower, or about the same 12 months from now?

Higher – 50%

About the same as now – 31%

Lower – 9%

Unsure – 11%

NC residents – Inflation Five Years from Now (March 2023)

What about longer-term inflation? Do you believe the rate of inflation will be higher, lower, or about the same 5 years from now?

Higher – 41%

About the same as now – 26%

Lower – 17%

Unsure – 17%

HPU Poll CSI (1)
March 2023 Consumer Sentiment Index Results:

We are interested in how people are getting along financially these days. Would you say that you (and your family living there) are better off or worse off financially than you were a year ago?

Better Off – 23%
Worse Off – 44%
Same/Neither – 31%
Unsure – 2%

Now looking ahead, do you think that a year from now you (and your family living there) will be better off financially, or worse off, or just about the same as now.

Better Off – 32%
Worse Off – 29%
About the same – 32%
Unsure – 8%

Now turning to business conditions in the country as a whole, do you think that during the next 12 months we’ll have good times financially, or bad times, or what?

Good Times – 17%
Bad Times – 34%
Neither – 29%
Good times with qualifications – 8%
Bad times with qualifications – 6%
Unsure – 7%

Looking ahead, which would you say is more likely, that in the country as a whole we’ll have continuous good times during the next five years or so, or that we have periods of widespread unemployment or depression, or what?

Widespread unemployment or depression – 28%
Continuous good times – 15%
Neither/Mix of both – 51%
Unsure – 7%

About the big things people buy for their homes, such as furniture, a refrigerator, stove, television, and things like that. Generally speaking, do you think now is a good time or bad time for people to buy major household items?

Good time – 20%
Bad time – 38%
Neither – 33%
Unsure – 9%

The most recent HPU Poll of 1,010 respondents was fielded by the High Point University Survey Research Center on Feb. 27 through March 4, as an online survey using a panel of respondents recruited and maintained by Dynata. Dynata sent invitations to its panel of N.C. respondents and the SRC collected responses on its Qualtrics platform. The SRC did all data analysis. The online sample is from a panel of respondents, and their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classic margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.1 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.2 (based on the weighting). The data is weighed toward population estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity and education based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. Factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional errors into the findings of opinion polls.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past surveys can be found at the Survey Research Center website. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative.


Dr. Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.