Still-Sour Consumer Views Greet President-Elect Obama

Consumer confidence just one point from record low.

Nov. 11, 2008— -- Consumer confidence is within a point of its 22-year low for the fourth time this year, unmoved by Barack Obama's election as president.

The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index stands at -50 on a scale of +100 to -100, down from a recent high of -41 six weeks ago. It bottomed out at -51 in late May, its worst since this weekly poll began in late 1985.

Click here for PDF with charts and data table.

Economic discontent fueled Obama's election: Sixty-three percent of voters called the economy their biggest concern, 85 percent expressed worry about the economy's direction, 81 percent were worried about their family's finances and three-quarters said the country's on the wrong track, nearly 30 points higher than four years ago.

Gas prices have tumbled, offering some respite to consumers – but far from enough. Retailers report plummeting sales, unemployment has reached a 14-year high of 6.5 percent and layoffs are gathering steam as corporate profits plummet. Amid talk of bankruptcy or a bailout, General Motors fell to its lowest stock price since 1942.

INDEX – The CCI is based on Americans' ratings of the national economy, their current finances and the buying climate. Among them:

-Only 9 percent rate the national economy positively, down 22 points this year, a mere 2 points from its record low last reached in February 1992 and 30 points below its long-term average.

-Just 21 percent call this a good time to buy things, down 10 points this year, 3 points from its all-time low and 17 points below its 22-year average.

-Forty-five percent rate their own finances positively, down 13 points for the year, likewise 3 points from its worst and 12 points off the long-term average. A majority of Americans haven't rated their own finances positively in 16 weeks, the longest such run since 1992-93.

TREND – After bottoming out at -51 in May the CCI's seen -50 four times – twice in August, once last month and again now. It's been this low just once before, in February 1992. At or below -40 for 30 weeks straight, it's approaching the 37-week record at that depth set in late 1991 and early 1992.

The index's long-term average is -11; its high, +38 in January 2000.

GROUPS – The CCI is negative across groups for the 20th week, but with continued gaps between better- and worse-off Americans. It's -22 among those with the highest incomes vs. -68 among those with the lowest, -39 among people who've been to college vs. -76 among high-school dropouts and -68 among blacks vs. -47 among whites.

The index is -65 among those not employed and -73 among renters, both lows in data for these groups since June 1990, vs. -33 among people with full-time jobs and -41 among homeowners. And sharp partisan differences remain: The index is -64 among Democrats, -54 among independents and -21 among Republicans.

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

NATIONAL ECONOMY – Nine percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good; it was 10 percent last week. The highest was 80 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The lowest was 7 percent in late 1991 and early 1992.

PERSONAL FINANCES – Forty-five percent say their own finances are excellent or good; it was 47 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-one percent say it's an excellent or good time to buy things; it was the same last week. The best was 57 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 18 percent, Aug. 10 and 24, and last week.

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 Nov. 9, 2008. The results have a 3-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.