Make us your home page

Poll: Tampa Bay residents less optimistic about economic year ahead

ST. PETERSBURG — It sure sounds good.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed more than 3,000 points since the year began. Unemployment is down. Car sales are up. People are building more homes and selling them for higher prices.

So Tampa Bay residents' optimism about their financial futures should abound, right?

Not so much.

A Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and AM 820 News Tampa Bay poll this month asked 625 registered voters in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties how they believed they would be faring economically a year from now.

Just 31 percent said they anticipated being better off in 12 months — a 7 percent drop from how people answered the same question in 2012.

Forty-seven percent said they expected their financial life to be about the same and 14 percent thought it would get worse. Eight percent weren't sure.

Those responses are consistent with a national poll conducted by CNN and ORC International, which found that nearly 70 percent of those questioned felt the economy was in poor condition.

The Tampa Bay telephone poll was taken Dec. 12-17 and has a 3.9 percentage point overall margin of error.

The pessimism here, at least for some, is related to uncertainty plaguing the Affordable Care Act.

James Blair is 24 and has a degree in finance from Florida State University. He lives in Tampa, where he works on political campaigns. Blair has a stable job and expects to get a raise in the coming year, but he still doesn't expect his financial situation to improve, and that's solely because he's unsure how he'll get health insurance in 12 months — or what it will cost.

"That's the only reason I feel I would be doing worse off," he said. "I'm just worried about the expense."

Blair is covered by his employer, but he fears premiums may rise or the coverage could cease.

Fellow Hillsborough resident Christian Parada was also concerned, though for different reasons, with the new health care law. Originally from El Salvador, he is a divorced, self-employed welder who helps support his two kids in Miami. He doesn't have insurance and doesn't intend to get it.

"That's just another blow to the pocket," he said. "I'm the kind of person who thinks you shouldn't be forced to do something you don't want to do."

Parada, 38, was nervous about the penalty he might have to pay for not signing up. In Parada's income bracket, it will be 1 percent of household income, or $500 if he makes the minimum he expects of $50,000 a year. The penalty increases in subsequent years.

More notably, Parada said progress in other parts of the economy have not boosted demand for his expertise. He typically does contract work at power plants, but those jobs have dwindled. To make up for it, he has sought work in Chile, Peru and Guatemala.

"The economy," he said, "is getting better for the big fish."

For those whose money is in the right place, though, things are looking up.

Steven Wroblewski, 53, was the president of a credit union in Chicago and moved to St. Petersburg in 2007. He said he was doing better this year than last and expected more improvement between now and the end of 2014. Wroblewski said improvements to the stock market have bolstered his retirement funds.

He's also encouraged by the positive economic signs in the United States and the growing stability in Europe.

"I think we're in the middle somewhere of a long-term expansion," Wroblewski said.

But that expansion isn't good for everyone.

Marie Lessmann, 71, lives in St. Petersburg on less than $20,000 a year. Some of that comes from a pension she receives for her career with the U.S. Department of Commerce, but she's mostly supported by Social Security.

A better economy, Lessmann knows, means higher prices.

"As prices rise on a fixed income, you become worse off," she said. "I don't have more money to spend."

The cost of living increases, she added, evaporate when other costs go up proportionally more. Lessmann, for instance, anticipates much higher bills from Duke Energy in 2014.

Cornelia Coy of Tarpon Springs is 94 and has lived in the area since the 1940s. She survives each month off about $900 from Social Security and another $250 from the 20 years she worked in public school cafeterias.

In response to the poll, she said she wasn't sure how she would be doing in a year because she's not sure how Social Security will be doing then. She worries that unforeseen changes to the program could impact her.

"I have to depend on Social Security," she said. "That's all the income I've got."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (727) 893-8472.

Please rate each of these local institutions

as excellent, good, fair or poor.

ExcellentGoodFairPoorNot Sure
Tampa International Airport48% 41%5%1%5%
Local schools8%34%28%15%15%
Government services6%46%32%10%6%
Government leaders4%36%37%15%8%
Law enforcement agency20%52%20%5%3%

Other questions

The Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and AM 820 News Tampa Bay poll also asked people to rate local institutions and officials.

Overwhelmingly, Tampa International Airport received the strongest support, with 48 percent of respondents scoring it excellent and another 41 percent calling it good.

The area's public schools did not fare so well. Just 8 percent rated them as excellent, while 43 percent said they were either fair or poor. People in Pinellas, though, were harsher (47 percent saying fair or poor) than those in Hillsborough (37 percent saying fair or poor).

Respondents also panned local government leaders, with more than 50 percent rating them fair or poor.

Receiving more positive reviews were law enforcement agencies, with a good rating from 72 percent of those polled. People also generally approved of local government services, which 52 percent rated good or better.

Poll: Tampa Bay residents less optimistic about economic year ahead 12/28/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 29, 2013 12:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park


    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers


    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]