Motorists fuel their vehicles at a Gulf station in Hauppauge....

Motorists fuel their vehicles at a Gulf station in Hauppauge. The price of gas on Long Island has hovered near $4.50 a gallon for about a week. A recent poll says consumers in the metropolitan area say the price increase is cutting into income seriously. (April 28, 2011) Credit: Steve Pfost

Soaring gasoline prices have heightened the worries of metropolitan area residents about their economic well-being, according to a poll released Monday.

The Siena College Research Institute found 65 percent of people living on Long Island, in New York City and its northern suburbs said their finances were either very seriously or somewhat seriously impacted by gas prices during  the past month. That's an increase of 5 percentage points from March but less than the statewide figure of 72 percent.

More residents were affected by rising food prices last month, with 69 percent saying their wallets were pinched. The number was virtually unchanged from March.

"Concern over prices at the pump rose for the seventh consecutive month, and now nearly three out of four state residents say those prices pose a hardship for their monthly budget," said pollster Douglas Lonnstrom, the institute's founder.

"Add in continuing Middle East turmoil, federal budget wrangling as well as the enduring state financial woes, and it's no wonder consumer confidence took a step backwards," he said.

Area residents were less confident last month about their economic condition in the future than in the March survey. Still, they were far more confident than residents upstate and statewide.

The New York metropolitan region lagged the nation in terms of attitudes about current conditions but was slightly more optimistic in terms of future conditions.

"Consumer confidence is very fragile right now," Lonnstrom said. "There is no long-term trend, it's just bouncing back and forth."

The poll of 802 residents, conducted last month, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Asked about big-ticket purchases within six months, residents statewide were less likely than in March to buy a home or undertake a large home-improvement project. There was little change in the number planning to buy furniture.

However, those expecting to purchase an automobile rose to 12.7 percent, the highest level since June 2007.

"High gas prices are causing people to think about hybrids and more gas-efficient cars," Lonnstrom said.

At the Hess station on Route 110 in Farmingdale, accountant Jacob Rosen said Monday he was thinking about trading in his Toyota Sienna van for a Toyota Prius. "I've got to do something," said Rosen, 41, of Dix Hills. "I need to take charge, and one way of doing that is buying a hybrid."

 

PURCHASE PLANS

Despite soaring prices for gasoline and food, New York State residents are planning big-ticket purchases, particularly for automobiles.

Percentage saying last month they planned to buy in the next six months:

CAR OR TRUCK 12.7 percent (highest since June 2007), up from 10.7 percent in April 2010

COMPUTER 15.1 percent, up from 13.8 percent in April 2010

FURNITURE 19.1 percent, down from 19.6 percent in April 2010

HOME 3.4 percent, unchanged from April 2010

MAJOR HOME IMPROVEMENT 15.6 percent, up from 14.5 percent in April 2010

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Donald Sutherland dead … Ronkonkoma Beach closed … What's up on LI Credit: Newsday

Six charged in slashings at Hofstra ... Donald Sutherland dead ... Man killed by cops suit settled ... LI spring sports all-stars

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