Ask Alabama poll shows residents look to manufacturing to lead economic recovery

AUBURN – With Alabama auto plants again churning out more cars and the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program drawing shoppers back to new-car showrooms, Alabama residents feel a turnaround coming. Auburn University’s Center for Governmental Services released statewide polling results today showing that Alabama residents believe the manufacturing sector is most likely to lead the state’s recovery from recession.

About one in three, or 33 percent, of Alabama residents expects manufacturers to provide the boost that brings back jobs and income to Alabama, hastening the end of the current economic downturn.

After manufacturing, Alabamians see the newer high tech industry (15 percent) and the healthcare industry (12 percent) as the next most likely sectors to lead an economic recovery, followed by agriculture (9 percent), government (5 percent) and tourism (3 percent).

One growing segment of Alabama’s surging manufacturing sector – the automobile industry – is likely to figure in a recovery and consumers seem to have noticed. When asked whether it is time to buy a car, 60 percent of the Alabama residents polled say that the next 12 months will be a “good time” to enter the market. Perceptions that this is an auto-buying opportunity are linked closely to income. Auburn researchers discovered that the wealthier you are, the stronger your sense that this is a good time to look for a deal of a car. Lower income residents are less interested, even with all the rebates, tax credits, and other special deals being offered by new and used car dealers.

Poll results also suggest that automakers with Alabama factories might want to make a stronger marketing pitch that their vehicles are made in the state. One in four consumers, or 26 percent, said that it would matter “a lot” to them if a car is made here in Alabama. Another 20 percent said it would matter some.

“That almost one-half of all Alabama residents say they may favor Alabama-built cars bodes well for the companies that have invested heavily in constructing new facilities here,” said the Center for Governmental Services Director, Don-Terry Veal. “If more consumers do follow through on that sentiment, there is little doubt that manufacturing indeed will play a major role in bringing back Alabama’s economy.”

David Hill, an Auburn University survey researcher, points out that polls conducted in Michigan earlier this year showed that residents of that state are firmly committed to buying their next car from Michigan-based General Motors and Ford.

“We are obviously entering an era of competition in which location of a manufacturer’s headquarters or facilities can play a role in buyers’ choices as they seek both to help their local economy and get a good deal at the same time,” said Hill.

The Ask Alabama survey results are based on telephone interviews conducted July 6-19 with a stratified random sample of 639 adult householders. The sample’s geographic, gender, race and age distributions were weighted to be proportionate to the U.S. Census Bureau’s data for Alabama’s adult (18 years of age or older) householders.

Patrick Rose, manager of the center’s Survey Research Laboratory that conducted the interviews, said that poll results based on the full statewide sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Ask Alabama Poll is conducted quarterly by the Center for Governmental Services, a unit of Auburn University Outreach that provides research, consulting and training to government agencies, not-for- profit associations and private sector clients.

Topics in upcoming releases from the current poll include:

* Hunger – Many residents see Alabama families skipping meals to cope with economy.

* News media – Internet is a growing news source in Alabama; threatens to overtake newspapers.

* State image – Alabama is seen as a friendly place to raise a family or retire, but not to start a business or look for a job.

* Jobs – Better pay and benefits top of list of what Alabama job seekers want.

* Schools – Sixty percent of Alabama residents give their local public schools a grade of A or B; ratings top national figures from Gallup.

For more information on the Center for Governmental Services and for additional information about the polling process, including graphic representations, go to http://www.askalabama.org.

Contact: Don-Terry Veal, (334) 844-4781 (vealdon@auburn.edu), or
David Hill, (334) 844-4867 (david.hill@auburn.edu)