No Sign of Uptick in Consumer Spending on Big Ticket Items

NEW YORK, N.Y. – October 4, 2010 – A new Harris Poll finds further evidence that the economy is stuck in a rut and things are unlikely to improve very soon. Specifically, it finds no significant changes in consumer expectations in how Americans will, or will not, spend their money on big ticket items over the next 6 months.

Using a set of questions that have been asked seven times since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, this survey finds that, with a couple of exceptions, the numbers have scarcely changed at all over the last 18 months. There are no signs here that consumer spending will soon start rising, and plenty of evidence that many people continue to be careful about spending their money. About two-thirds of all adults continue to say that they expect to spend less on eating out (66%) and entertainment (62%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,620 adults surveyed online between September 14 and 20, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

Other interesting findings of this survey include:

  • Just over half (52%) of all adults say they expect to save or invest more money, virtually the same percentage who said this in all seven of the polls over the last two years that asked this question;
  • Those who expect to take a vacation away from home lasting a week or more in the next six months is down from 36% last May to 31%. However, this is very similar to the number saying this a year ago (28%). The drop since May almost surely reflects a seasonal pattern with more people taking long vacations in summer;
  • Those who say that they expect to have more money to spend the way they want (28%), to buy a new computer (21%), to move to a different home (17%) or to buy or lease a new car or truck (12%) are all virtually unchanged since May 2009;
  • The only possible good news in this survey is that three items on the list do show a modest increase. However the change is only a few percentage points since May and it is not clear whether these reflect real changes. Those who expect to buy a new house or condo are up from 7% in May to 10% now. Those who expect to buy a boat or RV have doubled from 3% to 6%. And 10% expect to start a new business compared to 6% who said so in May.

 

So What?

These findings are consistent with other Harris Polls in that they find no evidence of any significant change in consumer sentiment, up or down. They strongly suggest that a substantial change in consumer spending is unlikely in the near future, that in the absence of increased spending economic growth will be sluggish and that unemployment is unlikely to decline in the next few months.

 

 

TABLE 1

SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS

How likely will you be to do the following within the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

 

 

LIKELY (NET)

Very

likely

Somewhat

Likely

NOT LIKELY (NET)

Not that likely

Not at all likely

Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

%

66

31

34

34

20

14

Reduce spending on entertainment

%

62

29

34

38

23

15

Save or invest more money

%

52

18

34

48

22

27

Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

%

31

14

18

69

17

51

Have more money to spend the way you want

%

28

7

22

72

30

41

Buy a new computer

%

21

6

15

79

22

57

Move to a different residence

%

17

7

10

83

11

72

Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

%

12

4

8

88

13

75

Purchase a house or condo

%

10

5

5

90

7

83

Start a new business

%

10

4

6

90

8

83

Buy a boat or recreational vehicle (e.g. trailer, motor home)

%

6

3

3

94

6

89

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 2

SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS – TREND

How likely will you be to do the following within the next 6 months?

Percent saying Very/Somewhat Likely

Base: All adults

 

 

Nov

2008

March

2009

May

2009

Sept

2009

Dec.

2009

May

2010

Sept

2010

Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

%

65

74

66

67

62

64

66

Reduce spending on entertainment

%

64

74

64

67

58

62

62

Save or invest more money

%

49

50

53

50

53

52

52

Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

%

29

35

36

28

35

36

31

Have more money to spend the way you want

%

25

21

26

25

27

27

28

Buy a new computer

%

22

22

21

19

23

20

21

Move to a different residence

%

18

20

19

14

17

19

17

Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

%

12

11

12

10

12

12

12

Purchase a house or condo

%

10

10

9

8

8

7

10

Start a new business

%

9

10

8

7

7

6

10

Buy a boat or recreational vehicle (e.g. trailer, motor home)

%

5

5

5

4

4

3

6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 14 to 20, 2010 among 2,620 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

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Q745

The Harris Poll ® #114, October 4, 2010

By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.