HPU Poll: NC still feeling impacts of inflation

Published September 14, 2023

By High Point University Poll


Inflation is still very much on the minds of North Carolinians interviewed for the newest HPU Poll. Half (52%) of North Carolina residents responding to the survey say inflation concerns have affected a lot of their spending decisions this year. About one-third (33%) say inflation concerns have affected some of their spending decisions, and only 12% say inflation concerns haven’t affected them much at all.

North Carolinians were also asked to consider how the prices they are currently paying for products compared to last year. The majority say prices are much higher for gas for their cars (57%) and meat (55%). Less than half of the poll respondents say they are paying a much higher price for eggs (46%), fruits and vegetables (42%), bread (39%), milk (38%), natural gas (37%), clothing (34%), electronics (34%), water (29%) and toys (25%).

Almost half (46%) of North Carolina residents say the inflation over the past few months had been worse than they expected. About one-third (31%) say inflation has been about as they expected, and only 19% say the inflation has been not as bad as expected.

When thinking about the future, about half (49%) of the poll respondents say they believe inflation will be higher 12 months from now, while about one-third (29%) say it will be about the same as now and only 12% say it would be lower.

When asked about five years from now, about two in five (40%) say they believe the rate of inflation will be higher, while about one-quarter (22%) say it will be about the same and 17% say it would be lower.

“High inflation silently erodes the purchasing power of those with fixed incomes, leaving them with rising costs and struggling to keep their financial life afloat,” said Dr. Nasir H. Assar, associate professor of economics.

Consumer Sentiment Remains Low

According to this latest poll, the Consumer Sentiment Index shows that North Carolinians’ opinions about the economy and their personal finances remain low, recorded at 63. That number hasn’t changed much from when we last reported an index of 62.5 from the May 2023 HPU Poll.

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 U.S. 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. “The most recent HPU Poll tracks consumer sentiment in North Carolina unchanged since our last poll.”

NC residents – Prices Currently Paying (August/September 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? [Items presented in a random order]
All Adults
  Much higher price Somewhat higher price About the same Somewhat lower Much lower Unsure or don’t buy
Gas for your car 57 23 11 5 1 3
Meat 55 30 9 2 1 4
Eggs 46 27 14 7 4 4
Fruits and vegetables 42 36 15 3 1 3
Bread 39 37 17 4 * 3
Milk 38 34 18 4 1 4
Natural gas 37 22 13 2 1 25
Clothing 34 35 24 2 1 5
Electronics 34 32 19 3 1 11
Water 29 32 28 2 1 8
Toys 25 24 18 2 1 30


NC residents – Inflation and Spending Decisions (August/September 2023)

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

A lot – 52%

Some – 33%

Not much at all – 12%

Unsure – 3%

NC residents – Inflation Expectations (August/September 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 – 46%

Not as bad as expected – 19%

About as expected – 31%

Unsure – 5%

NC residents – Inflation in 12 Months (August/September 2023)

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

Higher – 49%

About the same as now – 29%

Lower – 12%

Unsure – 10%

NC residents – Inflation in 5 Years (August/September 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 – 40%

About the same as now – 22%

Lower – 17%

Unsure – 20%

August/September 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 – 18%
Worse Off – 48%
Same/Neither – 32%
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 – 29%
Worse Off – 28%
About the same – 35%
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 – 13%
Bad Times – 33%
Neither – 28%
Good times with qualifications – 11%
Bad times with qualifications – 8%
Unsure – 8%

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 – 29%
Continuous good times – 13%
Neither – 8%

Mix of both – 43%
Unsure – 8%

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 – 42%
Neither good time nor bad time – 30%
Unsure – 8%

HPU Poll 97 was fielded by the High Point University Survey Research Center on Aug. 29 through Sept.  6, 2023 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 1,000 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 3.3 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 1.1 (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. 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 th