Overall consumer confidence index stability obscures increasing gap in optimism across different groups of Americans

Rural and retired Americans’ economic sentiment lower now than in the pandemic’s lockdown days

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Senior Research Analyst
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Washington, DC, May 5, 2022 – – Ipsos-Forbes Advisor U.S. Consumer Confidence Tracker is showing little change from two weeks ago as the Overall Confidence Index records a drop of less than half a point. However, this week’s reading of the index is its third-lowest in 15 months.

While consumer confidence is relatively stable in aggregate, trends among various demographic groups differ widely. This week shows a marked drop in sentiment vs. two weeks ago among rural Americans, non-whites, and those aged 55-74, simultaneous with strong gains among those earning more than $100,000, those with children in their household, and Midwesterners.

These short-term variations accentuate the gap in economic optimism among various groups of Americans. A comparison of this week’s Overall Confidence Index reading with that of March 23-24, 2020, in the days following the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic, shows that sentiment has evolved in opposite directions for different demographic groups. Those who show much higher gains in confidence than the national average of 6.7 points include Democrats (+20.3 points), parents of children under the age of 18 (+15.7), those making over $100k (+15.5), city-dwellers (+13.9), those with a college degree (+13.2), and those aged 35-54 (+10.8). However, consumer confidence is lower today than it was during the “lockdown days” among Republicans (-6.1), rural Americans (-5.0), and retirees (-2.7), and it is at the same level among those aged 55-74 (+0.7).


Read the full story from Forbes Advisor here.

Learn more about the Ipsos Global Consumer Confidence Index and sub-indices via the interactive portal, Ipsos Consolidated Economic Indicators (IpsosGlobalIndicators.com) including graphic comparisons, trended data and all the questions on which they are based.


Detailed Findings

1. Scoring at 52.7, the latest Overall Consumer Confidence index falls just 0.4 points from two weeks ago.

  • The Overall Confidence Index is currently 1.1 points below the pandemic average, and 7.4 points below where it stood in early March 2020, before the first lockdowns (60.1). It now sits just slightly below its 20-year historical average (-0.3).
Line graph showing overall U.S. consumer confidence which reads at 52.5 this week.

2. This week sees increases in the Current and Investment sub-indices of 1.1 and 1.3 points, respectively. Both are now around 9 points lower than pre-pandemic and lower by 1 to 3 points than both their pandemic and 20-year historical averages. The Expectations sub-index remains stable, showing a loss this week of only 0.4 points.

Table showing comparisons of each index current reading to various points in time or averages.

 

3. The Jobs sub-index shows a significant drop of 2.4 points from two weeks ago and is now sitting at its lowest level since mid-October 2021. The index continues to exceed both its pandemic and historical averages (by 4.4 points and 4.8 points, respectively), but is now almost six points lower than its pre-pandemic level from March 2020.

  • The proportion of Americans who say they are more confident in their job security now compared to 6 months ago is at 51%, nearly unchanged (+1 point) from two weeks ago.
  • The proportion of Americans reporting they, a family member, or a personal acquaintance lost their job in the past six months due to economic conditions is at 30%, up 6 points from two weeks ago.
  • In addition, 40% say it’s at least somewhat likely that they, a family member, or a personal acquaintance will lose their job in the next six months due to economic conditions, up 1 point from two weeks ago.

4. As inflation continues to rise, less than half of Americans now report spending and saving/investing money as much as usual, while half still borrow money as much as usual. Americans are still exercising caution, as those that report a change are more likely to say they have been doing less in each category, i.e., spending, saving, borrowing, using credit, or paying off debt less, as opposed to more.

Bar graph showing Americans levels of concern over various issues regarding their spending habits

5. The most notable changes in habits are an increase in the percentage of those saying they are now spending more money than usual (25%, up 5 points since April and up 10 points from the end of January) and an increase in the percentage of those who are investing or saving money less than usual (37%, up 4 points since April).

Chart showing Americans levels of concern over various issues regarding their spending habits over time

6. Comfort with making major purchases relative to six months ago experiences remains stable, as approximately two in five are comfortable with other purchases.

  • 39% say they are more comfortable making major household purchases compared to six months ago, nearly unchanged (+1 point) from two weeks ago.
Line graph showing consumer comfort making major household purchases over time.
  • 42% say they are more comfortable making other household purchases compared to six months ago, nearly unchanged (+1 point) from two weeks ago.
Line graph showing consumer comfort making other household purchases over time.

 

Questions

The data used for the Consumer Confidence index and sub-indices is based on the following questions:

1. Now, thinking about our economic situation, how would you describe the current economic situation in US? Is it… very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad or very bad?

2. Rate the current state of the economy in your local area using a scale from 1 to 7, where 7 means a very strong economy today and 1 means a very weak economy.

3. Looking ahead six months from now, do you expect the economy in your local area to be much stronger, somewhat stronger, about the same, somewhat weaker, or much weaker than it is now?

4. Rate your current financial situation, using a scale from 1 to 7, where 7 means your personal financial situation is very strong today and 1 means it is very weak

5. Looking ahead six months from now, do you expect your personal financial situation to be much stronger, somewhat stronger, about the same, somewhat weaker, or much weaker than it is now?

6. Compared to 6 months ago, are you NOW more or less comfortable making a major purchase, like a home or car?

7. Compared to 6 months ago, are you NOW more or less comfortable making other household purchases?

8. Compared to 6 months ago, are you NOW more or less confident about job security for yourself, your family and other people you know personally?

9. Compared to 6 months ago, are you NOW more or less confident of your ability to invest in the future, including your ability to save money for your retirement or your children’s education?

10. Thinking of the last 6 months, have you, someone in your family or someone else you know personally lost their job as a result of economic conditions?

11. Now look ahead at the next six months. How likely is it that you, someone in your family or someone else you know personally will lose their job in the next six months as a result of economic conditions?

Additional questions:

1. In the past few months, have you done each of the following more than, less than, or as much as you usually do?

  • Draw from your savings
  • Spend money
  • Invest or save money
  • Borrow money or use credit
  • Pay off your loans/credit

About the Study                   

These findings are based on data from an Ipsos survey conducted May 2-3, 2022 with a sample of 930 adults aged 18-74 from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii who were interviewed online in English.

The sample was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel, partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education. 

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect. For n=930, DEFF=1.5 and adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-5.4 percentage points.

Findings from March 2010 to early March 2020 are based on data from Refinitiv /Ipsos’ Primary Consumer Sentiment Index (PCSI) collected in a monthly survey on Ipsos’ Global Advisor online survey platform with the same questions. For the PCSI survey, Ipsos interviews a total of 1,000+ U.S. adults aged 18-74. The Refinitiv/Ipsos Primary Consumer Sentiment Index (PCSI), ongoing since 2010, is a monthly survey of consumer attitudes on the current and future state of local economies, personal finance situations, savings, and confidence to make large investments. The PCSI metrics reported each month consist of a “Primary Index” based on 10 questions available upon request and of several “sub-indices” each based on a subset of these 10 questions. Those sub-indices include a Current Index, an Expectations Index, an Investment Index, and a Jobs Index. 

Findings for January 2002- February 2011 are based on data from the RBC CASH Index, a monthly telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older conducted by Ipsos with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson

Senior Vice President, US

Public Affairs

+1 202 420 2025

[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Senior Research Analyst

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