The Center for Regional Analysis calculates its Consumer Sentiment Index from the results of a monthly online survey of Lancaster County residents that typically draws about 1,000 respondents. The local survey is modeled after a national one developed by the University of Michigan.

Eight of the 17 questions request typical demographic information: the respondent’s year of birth (to establish that he or she is at least 18), ZIP code (to establish that he or she is a Lancaster County resident), gender, ethnicity, pre-tax household income in 2019, household size, education and employment status.

The demographic data also allows the center to weight responses from certain demographic groups to accurately reflect the county’s makeup.

Another eight questions:

-Address the financial situation of the respondent’s household.

-Ask whether it’s a good time to buy major household items or a house.

-Ask his or her expectations for the Lancaster County economy and the national economy, both over the next 12 months and over the next five years.

One question asks whether COVID-19 poses a threat to the respondent’s personal financial situation.

At the beginning of each month, project partner LNP Media Group emails a link to the survey to 36,000 digital and print subscribers for whom it has email addresses. Respondents have until the seventh day of the month to fill out the survey.

The number of usable responses has ranged from 686 to 1,852, with an average of about 1,000.

“We send it to our subscribers because we believe they would be interested in participating in a project like this,” said Sally Reynolds, digital marketing operations manager at LNP Media Group.

If a person is not receiving the email blast but wants to take the survey, he or she can click here.

“Ideally, we’d like everyone in the county to take it. The more the better, and the more diverse the respondents the better,” Reynolds said.

“We tend to have a balance of men and women responding,” said Naomi Young, director of the center. “However, it would be great to see stronger participation by adults between the ages of 18 and 45 and stronger participation from people of color.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a growing number of respondents opting to not identify their race or ethnicity. We ask for this information only to assess how well our poll each month is reflecting the diversity of the county,” Young said.

LNP Media Group manages the survey site while the center analyzes the data that’s collected and calculates the monthly index score.

To read the results of the monthly survey, which are posted sometime during the last week or 10 days of the month, click here.

What to Read Next