Local News

WRAL poll: Despite pandemic's shutdowns and layoffs, majority in NC optimistic about economy, family finances

Posted April 29, 2020 6:41 p.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2020 7:08 p.m. EDT

Even with thousands of businesses shuttered statewide and record numbers of workers applying for jobless benefits because of the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of North Carolinians remain optimistic about the future of the economy and their family finances, according to a WRAL News poll released Wednesday.

SurveyUSA contacted 700 adults statewide April 23-26 for the exclusive poll, and questions have a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

More than 900,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March, according to the state Department of Employment Security, with about 85 percent of those applications linked to the pandemic-related business closures or cutbacks.

Thousands of businesses statewide also have sought federal assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program to help stay afloat and keep workers on the payroll during the crisis, which economists say is pushing the U.S. into a deep recession.

Despite the gloomy outlook, only a third of North Carolinians surveyed were pessimistic about the nation's economy over the next year, compared with a slight majority, 52 percent, who expressed optimism. The remaining 14 percent said they weren't sure.

"I really have hope that this is just a nice break for the environment, and for us as people in general, and hopefully the economy will recover," said Tasija Vinton, a dental hygienist whose office is closed. "Sooner or later, we have to get going. We can't keep lockdown going this entire time."

"I would like to see the economy rebound sooner rather than later," said Chip Garcia, who's retired while his wife still works. "I think it's going to be real tough to get it started again. That's my fear."

When it came to their own families, an even larger majority, 62 percent, expressed optimism for their financial future, while 21 percent said they were pessimistic and 17 percent weren't sure.

Only 45 percent expressed at least some concern that they would have trouble making a mortgage or rent payment in the coming months.

"I can make my rent this month, but making health care payments would be a struggle," said Danica Creaghan, a self-employed music teacher.

"This month, yes. We'll see what brings next month," said Bonnie Cashwell, an acupuncturist working limited hours.

"I was mindful enough to set aside a good chunk of money for the just-in-case scenario," Garcia said. "I think everybody is on a limited income at this point."

Overall, men were more optimistic than women about the outlook, and older people were more upbeat than younger ones. Liberals were more pessimistic than conservatives, but even a majority of liberals expressed optimism when it came to family finances. People who had attended college were less optimistic than those with only a high school education.

Confidence in the economic future rose with income, as fewer than 40 percent people who classified themselves as poor expressed optimism, while a majority of people who deem themselves to be middle- and upper-class said they were optimistic.

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