Dec. 22: Confidence Up the Past Month

Americans seem to be enjoying the holiday shopping season: Consumer confidence has inched ahead in the month since Thanksgiving, a hopeful sign for the nation’s retailers.

The ABC News/"Money" magazine Consumer Comfort Index, -9 at the traditional start of the shopping season immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday, stands at -5 on its scale of +100 to -100 today. That’s better than average, and within sight of its best of 2004.

The index, figured on a scale of +100 to -100, is based on public views of the national economy, the buying climate and personal finances. Forty-two percent now rate both the economy and buying climate positively. While hardly overwhelming ratings, the former is four points better than its average across 2004, the latter, three points better.

More, 59 percent, rate their own finances positively, compared with a 2004 average of 57 percent.

The index has averaged -11 this year, matching its 2002 average and better than its average in 2003, -19. Its lifetime average in weekly polls since late 1985 is -9, ranging from a high of +38 in January 2000 to a low of -50 in early 1992.

GROUPS -- As usual, confidence is stronger among better-off Americans. The index is +51 among higher-income people while -51 among those with the lowest incomes; +9 among college graduates while -28 among high-school dropouts; +2 among whites while -46 among blacks; and +4 among men but -13 among women.

The index this week is best (0) in the West. As has been the case all year, it’s far higher among Republicans (+33), than independents (-7) or Democrats (-37).

Here's a closer look at the three components of the ABC/Money index:

NATIONAL ECONOMY -- Forty-two percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good, the same as last week. The highest was 80 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The lowest was 7 percent in late 1991 and early 1992.

PERSONAL FINANCES -- Fifty-nine percent say their own finances are excellent or good, unchanged. The best was 70 percent on Aug. 30, 1998, matched in January 2000. The worst was 42 percent on March 14, 1993.

BUYING CLIMATE -- Forty-two percent say it’s an excellent or good time to buy things; it was 40 percent last week. The best was 57 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 20 percent in fall 1990.

METHODOLOGY -- The ABC News/"Money" magazine Consumer Comfort Index represents a rolling average based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,000 adults nationwide each month. This week's results are based on 1,000 interviews in the four weeks ending Dec. 19 and have an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points. Field work was conducted by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.

The ABC/Money index is derived by subtracting the negative response to each index question from the positive response to that question. The three resulting numbers are then added and divided by three. The index can range from +100 (everyone positive on all three measures) to -100 (all negative on all three measures). The survey began in December 1985.

Click here for PDF version with charts and data table.

See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.