Each year, The Ehrhardt Group and Causeway Solutions create the Gulf South Index Fall Update—delving further into our data to see how people in the Gulf South and nationally are feeling compared to the beginning of the year.

The headline for the fall? Change is afoot, from public sentiment on the economy to spending and technology. 

1. Are We Still Worried About the Economy?

a. The short answer: yes. Since 2020, the majority of respondents in both areas have consistently rated the economy three stars and below. This trend has continued through fall of 2023, with 81% of the Gulf South rating under three, and 80% doing so nationally.

b. We’re also unsure about our careers, only 40% believe the Gulf South offers attractive career opportunities in their field, compared to 54% in 2022. This reflects the attitudes of national respondents towards their careers as well (65% in spring 2022, 49% in fall 2023).

c. A NEW FINDING: We don’t seem as worried as we used to. More people in both the Gulf South and the U.S. report feeling OK financially with no worries paying bills. Those saying they are in good shape in the Gulf South went from 18% in spring 2022 to 24% earlier this year, and rests at 27% as of this fall. In June, Gallup reported the first increase in economic outlook amongst Americans since January 2022.

d. Putting our money where it matters: 24% of the Gulf South purchased a house in the past year. In early 2022, 15% reported doing so. Even when our minds feel differently, spending habits show confidence – at least in our individual financial situations.

e. The bottom line: It might feel like the economy is failing us, but the reality is more complicated. Individual positivity thrives, even in the face of continued economic troubles throughout the country.


2. Technology and Media: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

a. Cellphone Cooldown: In March of last year, 48% of Louisiana residents spent 5+ hours on their phones. This October, only 31% had. Louisiana shows a broader trend towards efforts to spend less time on screens. According to Morning Consult, 61% of adults are now more selective with social media postage and use. Furthermore, 43% of the Gulf South have little to no trust in social media sites like Facebook.

b. But some screen time is still high. 58% of the Gulf South spend 3+ hours a day watching TV; 60% do nationally. Over 80% in both areas are subscribed to at least one streaming service – with Netflix as the most popular (44% personally subscribe in the U.S., 43% in the Gulf South).

c. AI Anxiety: Despite dominating global debate, most U.S. and Gulf South respondents are not yet in on AI. In the past month, only 33% used ChatGPT, one of the fastest growing AI chatbots. Not only are we stepping back from our tried-and-true tech, but we’re also wary of new options.

d. The silver lining: We still trust local news – 48% of the Gulf South trusts them most. American trust in mass media has hit a record low point matching 2016 (39% have no trust at all, 29% have not very much), according to Gallup. With increasing misinformation and distrust, we turn to the sources we know best.


3. Looking Forward

a. Was this year better? In both the U.S. and the Gulf South, respondents’ belief that this year will be better than the last has decreased. In early 2023, 62% of the Gulf South and 61% of the U.S. thought the year would be better for them. More recently, those numbers have gone down to 57% and 54% respectively.

b. The catch, though, is more people believe things will remain the same. 26% in the Gulf South believe things will stay the same, compared to 17% saying it won’t be better. In the U.S., 29% believe things will stay the same (21% last year).

c. Backyard Optimism: Earlier in 2023, 44% of Gulf South respondents believed they could achieve the American Dream. This fall, 48% believe it’s possible. Although this increase may seem small, the continuous optimism Gulf South residents have for their lives is unique. National respondents’ faith in the American Dream slightly dropped 52% to 48% in that same time. Down here, we remain resiliently sunny, even in the face of challenges.

This year has not been without its struggles, but it has also had a fair share of improvements. People spending less time on their phones, and more time achieving financial security and working towards the American Dream. A good message as we head to Thanksgiving and the rest of our holiday season: staying present with our loved ones and staying thankful for our successes through the year.  

Marc Ehrhardt
The Ehrhardt Group

William Skelly
Causeway Solutions