U.Va. Study Finds Area Residents Content, Optimistic About Economy

Residents of the Charlottesville area feel better about current economic conditions and are more optimistic about future conditions than Americans in general, according to a telephone survey of more than 1,000 area residents conducted by the University of Virginia's Center for Survey Research.

Introduced as the Jefferson Area Community Survey, U.Va.'s new omnibus survey of adult residents in six local jurisdictions (the city of Charlottesville, and Albemarle, Nelson, Greene, Fluvanna and Louisa counties), conducted between Jan. 6 and Jan. 29, reveals a consumer sentiment index, or CSI, of 80.9 percent. Derived from JACS questions on present conditions and economic outlook, the Jefferson Area Community Survey CSI is constructed using the same method as the long-running national Index of Consumer Sentiment, reported monthly by the University of Michigan since 1946. The national Index of Consumer Sentiment for January was 75.0, up from 69.9 percent in December.

The Jefferson Area survey also reveals that residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle County report greater satisfaction with current conditions and an even more optimistic outlook than do residents of the outlying counties.

"These results should not surprise many observers," said David Shreve, Center for Survey Research analyst. "Generous and stable investments in public education, such as we have in this area – especially in higher education – always generate relatively stable and unusually widespread economic activity, the typical source of the most positive consumer sentiment."

Though the bi-annual Jefferson Area Community Survey Consumer Sentiment Index will be published less frequently than the University of Michigan's national Index of Consumer Sentiment, it will serve as a reliable and scientific way to compare twice a year the consumer sentiment in the local area to collective consumer sentiment nationwide.

"The survey is designed in general to serve the increasing need for scientifically based survey information about the greater Charlottesville region," director Tom Guterbock said, "and it's organized in such a way to reach a representative sample of the region's cell phones and landlines."

Area government agencies, nonprofit organizations and academic researchers can place questions in the Jefferson Area Community Survey. For this inaugural survey, six different nonprofits and government agencies participated.

"We're pleased to offer the survey as an important tool for researchers and public servants throughout the community," Guterbock said. "Local organizations and agencies can improve their services by using the JACS to find out what work—and what doesn't."