At -49, the index is below -50 for the first time in five weeks, but has been remarkably consistent of late: It's hovered between -48 and -54 for 19 weeks straight since mid-October, the longest such slump on record. It's been below -40 for 43 consecutive weeks, another record.
The CCI is far below its record high, +38 in January 2000, while just 5 points off its worst reached three weeks ago.
GROUPS – The CCI is higher as usual among better-off groups, but it is still negative for most Americans. The index had been negative across the board for the 33 straight weeks – matching the previous record in 18 years of data, set twice during 1991-92. This week, however, the highest income bracket is positive at +5, the first time it's been positive since June, vs. -80 among those with the lowest incomes.
It's -40 among those who've attended college (their best since Nov. 9) vs. -63 among high school dropouts, -45 among men while -51 among women (their best since Oct. 5), -43 among homeowners vs. -65 among renters and -46 among whites vs. -58 among blacks.
Partisan differences remain: The index is -28 among Republicans (their best since Nov. 16) vs. -59 among Democrats and -51 among independents.
Here's a closer look at the three components of the ABC News CCI:
NATIONAL ECONOMY – Five percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good; it was 4 percent last week, the record low. The highest was 80 percent Jan. 16, 2000.
PERSONAL FINANCES – Forty-seven percent say their own finances are excellent or good; it was 44 percent last week. The best was 70 percent, last reached in January 2000. The worst was 41 percent Jan. 25.
BUYING CLIMATE – Twenty-four percent say it's an excellent or good time to buy things; it was 22 percent last week. The best was 57 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 18 percent Oct. 19, Aug. 10 and Aug. 24, 2008.
METHODOLOGY – Interviews for the ABC News Consumer Comfort Index are reported in a four-week rolling average. This week's results are based on telephone interviews among a random national sample of 1,000 adults in the four weeks ending Feb. 15, 2009. The results have a 3-point error margin. The expectations question was asked of 500 respondents Feb. 4-15, 2009; that result has a 4.5-point error margin. Field work by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.
The index is derived by subtracting the negative response to each index question from the positive response to that question. The three resulting numbers are 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.