19 Jun 2008

Consumer Confidence Shakened by High Gas Prices

HALIFAX: The price of gasoline is now the single most important issue facing Atlantic Canadians, according to the most recent survey conducted by Corporate Research Associates Inc. Unemployment and health care are no longer top of mind for residents as a concern, and gasoline prices have reached the top issue threshold among Atlantic Canadians. This sharp increase of concern with gasoline prices has only happened once before, in Summer 2005, when prices surpassed the one dollar per litre mark for the first time. At the same time, consumer confidence has declined dramatically since February 2008 to one of the lowest levels in the past decade as consumers are directly affected by high gas prices.

Two in ten residents in Atlantic Canada mention the price of gasoline as the most important issue in the region (up 17 points from three months ago). Concern with unemployment dropped from 26 percent in February 2008 to 18 percent. In addition, Atlantic Canadians are less likely to believe health care is the number one issue facing residents (11%, compared with 20% three months ago), and are more likely to cite the cost of living as a concern (7%, compared with 2%).

“Most certainly, consumer spending has been affected by the rapid increase in gas prices this year,” according to Don Mills, CRA’s president and CEO. “Discretionary spending, such as leisure activities and vacation travel, has likely been impacted by high gas prices already and will be even more impacted in the coming months.”

Across the provinces, residents in Prince Edward Island (29%, compared with 6% in February 2008) and Nova Scotia (25%, compared with 3%) are more likely to mention the price of gasoline as the number one issue facing Atlantic Canadians. Residents in Newfoundland and Labrador carry a somewhat different view on issues facing the region, as one-quarter continue to state unemployment as their primary concern (24%, compared with 30% three months ago), followed by the price of gasoline (17%, up from 3%) and health care (17%, down three points). In New Brunswick, unemployment is the top concern (21%, compared with 32% three months ago), followed by the price of gasoline (17%, up from 5%), and health care (8%, down from 15%).

These results are part of the CRA Atlantic Quarterly®, an independent, quarterly survey of Atlantic Canadians, and are based on a sample of 1507 adult Atlantic Canadians, conducted from May 7 to June 1, 2008, with results accurate to within +2.5 percentage points, 95 out of 100 times.

For more information, please contact: Don Mills, President and CEO at (902) 722-3100.

View tables here.

Amanda Bates