2013 Annual Survey

Mecklenburg attitudes reflect improving economy

People in Mecklenburg County are feeling the effects of the economic recovery, according to results from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s 2013 Annual Survey. Most people surveyed said their economic situation is getting better, in higher numbers than at any time since 2010. They’re optimistic for the future, too.

The survey of 400 Mecklenburg County residents asked two questions:

1. “Compared to this time last year, would you say your current economic situation is better, about the same or worse?”

2. “Thinking ahead about your economic situation, do you believe that you will be better off, about the same, or worse?”

Overall, 34.2 percent of respondents said their economic situation was better than last year. That’s up from 32.5 percent in 2012 and 21.2 percent in 2010. The percentage of respondents reporting they were worse off than last year dropped more drastically, from 20.9 percent in 2012 to 14.3 percent in 2013. In 2010, 32.6 percent of respondents predicted they would be worse off in a year. The percentage of respondents predicting that they would be worse off next year increased slightly, to 9.1 percent this year from 7.2 percent in 2012. This year’s percentage is still lower than the 12.2 percent in 2011 or the 10.1 percent in 2010. 

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Annual Survey is a public opinion survey conducted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute since 1980. Click here to find out more.

A closer look shows some differences among selected groups. Women were less likely to say they were better off economically and, though most expected to be better off in the next year, they were less confident in their economic future than men.  Only 25 percent of women said they were better off this year, compared to 45 percent of male respondents. Only 10 percent of men said their economic situation was worse than last year’s, while 19 percent of women did. As far as hope for the future – 58 percent of women predicted better days in the year ahead, while 68 percent of men did.

Respondents who rent their homes were more optimistic about the future.  A large majority of renters, 72 percent, expected to be better off next year compared with 56 percent of homeowners agreeing.

While most unemployed respondents rated themselves as about the same or worse off than last year, as a group, the unemployed were second only to students in their optimism for the coming year. Seventy-eight percent of unemployed respondents expected themselves to be better off next year compared to 84 percent of students. Among full-time employed workers, 64 percent expected to be better off next year.  

About 80,000 people have moved to Charlotte since 2010, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and Charlotte Chamber. Unemployment in Mecklenburg County peaked at 11.8 percent in February 2010. By July 2013, the most recent month for which data is available, that had fallen to 9.5 percent. The national rate is 7.3 percent. 

“Mecklenburg County has continued to attract newcomers to our community partly because of the economy’s vitality,” said Bill McCoy, professor emeritus and former director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. “However, a major problem continues even though most indicators are positive. The actual economy is not growing fast enough and is not producing enough jobs to significantly lower the unemployment figure.”

The institute’s Annual Survey obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 400 people ages 17 and older living in Mecklenburg County. Interviews were conducted via landline (n=320) and cell phone (n=80) by a national survey firm contracted by the institute. The interviews were administered in English and Spanish from May 9 to June 7, 2013. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for results based on the complete set of weighted data is ±4.96 percentage points.