POLL: Confidence at Another 2008 Low

Seventy-Eight Percent Say It's a Bad Time to Spend Money, Most Since July 1992

Analysis by Eliot Caroom

April 29, 2008 —

Consumer confidence reached another new low for the year this week, moving within sight of its lowest in 22 years of weekly ABC News surveys.

The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index stands at -41 on its scale of +100 to -100, its second week at or below -40 – a level not seen since July 1993. It's far below its long-term average, -10, and within striking distance of its record low, -50 in early 1992.

Click here for PDF with charts and data table.

Among other troubles, this week 78 percent of Americans say it's a bad time to spend money on things they want and need, the most since July 1992 and 2 points from the record. That may not bode well for the government's economic stimulus; nor does the finding in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in mid-April that only a quarter plan to spend their stimulus checks, as opposed to using them for savings or to pay existing bills.

The ABC CCI has fallen in each of the last four quarters, most steeply in the first quarter of 2008, and continuing this month. It's averaged -32 so far this year, its worst since -37 in 1993. Among other economic woes, consumer views historically have been sensitive to gasoline prices – and gas now averages a record $3.60 per gallon.

INDEX – For the third week straight only 15 percent of Americans rate the national economy positively, well below the long-term average of 40 percent and 8 points from the record low, 7 percent, in late 1991 and early 1992.

Positive ratings of the buying climate at 22 percent are down 9 points this year and 16 points off their long-term average. In the index's third measure, 51 percent rate their personal finances positively, 6 points below the long-term average and down 7 points this year.

TREND – The last three weeks of April have been the worst three weeks of 2008 – each week setting a new low for the year. At -41, as noted, the index is only 9 points from its record low, -50 in February 1992, and far from its all-time high, +38 in January 2000.

GROUPS – The CCI as usual is higher in better-off groups, though the index is negative across the board. It's -8 among higher-income Americans while -74 among the least well-off, -29 among college-educated adults while -57 among high-school dropouts, -40 among whites but -54 among blacks and -33 among men while -49 among women.

Partisan differences remain: The index is -20 among Republicans, but -36 among independents and -57 among Democrats.

Here's a closer look at the three components of the ABC News CCI:

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

PERSONAL FINANCES – Fifty-one percent say their own finances are excellent or good; it was 52 percent last week. The best was 70 percent, last reached in January 2000. The worst was 42 percent on March 14, 1993.

BUYING CLIMATE – Twenty-two percent say it's an excellent or good time to buy things; it was 23 percent last week. The best was 57 percent Jan. 16, 2000; the worst, 20 percent in fall 1990.

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 April 27, 2008. The results have a three-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.

Click here for PDF with charts and data table.