Two weeks before Election Day, the economic shot clock is running out for the Democrats. With economic discontent the central motivator in the upcoming midterms, the ABC News Consumer Comfort Index this week stands at -46 on its scale of +100 to -100, tying its average for the year and a mere two points from its worst full year on record, last year, in weekly polling since late 1985. Neither is the outlook any brighter. In a separate monthly measure, just 23 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better, while 34 percent say that it is getting worse. (The rest say it’s staying the same, which is to say, still terrible.) Economic pessimists have outnumbered optimists in each of the last five months, in all but one month this year, and in all but three months since Barack Obama won the presidency two years ago. It could be worse, and has been. At this time in 2008, with the economy falling into the shaft, a record 82 percent of Americans said it was getting worse; it’s less than half that now. And pessimists outnumbered optimists by an average 37 points from March 2007 to March 2009; the gap’s been much slighter, an average 8 points, since then. Optimism is a good predictor of future consumer confidence, albeit with some periods of discontinuity. Since 2001, the gap between positive and negative expectations correlates at .68 with confidence three months later. That suggests current sentiment, as measured by the CCI, is likely not to pick up until consumers become more optimistic about the future.
The CCI, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, comprises Americans’ ratings of the national economy, the current buying climate and their personal finances. This week, 92 percent give the national economy a negative rating, 72 percent call it a bad time to spend money and 55 percent say their own finances are hurting. Analysis by David G. Tully, research analyst, Langer Research Associates. Click here for tables with this week’s CCI data.