Gallup’s Consumer Confidence Polling Explained

Daily tracking provides real-time results, massive sample sizes

PRINCETON, NJ -- Consumer confidence data are a highly influential segment of public opinion polling. Consumer spending accounts for approximately two-thirds of the United States economy, and anything that can help to predict whether that spending is going to rise or fall in the near term has tremendous value to retail industries, the stock market, and government policy-makers. The Federal Reserve openly discusses consumer confidence as a factor in its decision-making process concerning changes in interest rates.

The Gallup Poll has been gauging Americans' economic mood on a periodic basis since 1992, on a monthly basis since October 2000, and, as of Jan. 2, 2008, is now tracking it on a daily basis. Gallup's basic measurement relies on two questions about the nation's economy: one assessing public perceptions of current economic conditions; the other assessing the economy's direction:

1. How would you rate economic conditions in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
2. Right now, do you think that economic conditions in the country as a whole are getting better or getting worse?

Though simple, this approach has produced trend lines on consumer confidence since October 2000 that closely parallel the monthly economic indexes associated with the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey and the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. Those indices differ from Gallup's -- and from each other -- in the number and types of questions asked; nevertheless, all three indices are similar in measuring the broad sweep of the ups and downs of consumer confidence.

In addition to strong similarities in the overall indices, there is a significant correlation in the standard sub-indices looking at consumers' current attitudes, as well as those looking at consumers' outlook for the economy.

For current attitudes, Gallup relies on one question asking Americans to rate economic conditions as excellent, good, only fair, or poor. The Conference Board and Reuters/University of Michigan each rely on two questions, but with significant differences in focus, ranging from national business conditions to the availability of local jobs to the status of one's personal finances.

For perceptions of the economy's direction, Gallup asks a single question about whether the economy is getting better or getting worse. The Conference Board and Reuters/University of Michigan each rely on three questions, again with highly disparate focuses.

While providing data on consumer attitudes that are consistent with the Reuters/University of Michigan and the Conference Board, the Gallup Daily tracking poll offers several advantages to those looking for timely data, and for delving deeply into demographic differences in attitudes.

The Gallup Daily tracking survey is based on a state-of-the art telephone survey methodology (see details at the end of this report) in which approximately 500 national adults are asked about their economic views each night. The results are reported in three-day rolling averages, which are therefore based on surveys of approximately 1,500 national adults. For example, polling conducted on Jan. 26-28, 2008, was released on on Jan. 29, 2008. This schedule provides minimal lag time between data collection and data reporting, and great flexibility for the user in choosing the exact dates of interest.

Additionally, Gallup will routinely update consumer confidence on a weekly basis (encompassing approximately 3,500 aggregated interviews) and a monthly basis (approximately 15,000 interviews) that will provide unprecedented opportunities for almost microscopic demographic analysis of consumer confidence. Whereas other surveys look at the data by region, Gallup will be able to look at the data by most states, or within region by income, race, and a myriad of other factors.

In short, Gallup Poll Daily tracking provides continual measurement of U.S. consumer confidence, eliminating the lag time between major economic reports or news events and a meaningful understanding of the public's reaction.

In terms of the specifics of Gallup's measures, since the start of the year, there has been a downturn in consumer confidence that appears tied to the declining stock market, and was possibly fortified by the Federal Reserve's recent interest-rate cut (signaling that the economy needs help) and the recent announcement of an agreement between President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress on a fiscal stimulus package.

Detailed Gallup Daily Survey Methods

The survey methods for Gallup Poll Daily tracking are similar to those of The Gallup Poll. The poll relies on live (not automated) interviewers, random-digit-dial (RDD) sampling, cell-phone sampling to reach those in cell-phone-only households, and a random selection method for choosing respondents within a household. Additionally, Gallup Poll Daily tracking includes Spanish-language interviews for respondents who speak only Spanish, includes interviews in Alaska and Hawaii, and relies on a multi-call design to reach respondents not contacted on the initial attempt. Approximately 1,000 national adults are interviewed each night for Gallup Poll Daily tracking (including weekdays and weekends, but not major holidays), of which a random half-sample of approximately 500 national adults are asked for their economic views. The results are reported in continuous three-day rolling averages.

Gallup Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030