Oct. 21, 2008— -- With two weeks until Election Day and news that a majority of states are in recession, Americans are bottoming out on economic confidence, spelling trouble for the incumbent party.
The ABC News Consumer Confidence Index has dropped by 7 points in the last two weeks to -50 on its scale of +100 to -100, 1 point from its record low in 22 years of weekly polling, set in May. It also was in this territory just in advance of the 1992 election, in which George W. Bush's father lost his office in a wave of economic discontent.
Positive ratings of the buying climate, at 18 percent, equal their lowest on record since this weekly poll began in late 1985. Ratings of the national economy, a mere 8 percent positive, are 1 point from their low. And just under half rate their own finances positively.
It all has political repercussions. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, likely voters overwhelmingly cite the economy as their top issue and by a 17-point margin trust Barack Obama over John McCain to handle it. The last Democratic presidential candidate to lead by that much in trust to deal with the economy was Bill Clinton in 1992.
The parlous state of consumer views is all the more striking given the sharp drop in gasoline prices, which, when falling, usually correlate strongly with confidence. Gas is down by 24 cents this week and 57 cents in the last two weeks, to under $3 a gallon for the first time since February. Still consumer confidence is in the tank.
INDEX – As noted, just 18 percent say it's a good time to buy things, tying the lowest in 22 years of the CCI, hit twice this August. Fewer still, 8 percent, rate the economy positively, down 23 points this year and 31 points off the long-term average.
In typically the strongest of the three measures, 49 percent rate their personal finances positively, slightly better than the 45 percent it hit in early September, but down 9 points this year and 8 points off the long-term average.