Bailouts Aren't Increasing Consumer Confidence

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

Increasing number of Americans rate economy "poor," say conditions are getting worse

PRINCETON, NJ -- Talk of the auto bailout and the Obama stimulus plan may have helped the stock market but is not doing the same for consumer confidence. The percentage of consumers rating the economy "poor" increased from November's 58% to 60% during the week of Dec. 1-7 and 62% Dec. 8-10, continuing an ever-worsening trend since August.


At the same time, the percentage of Americans saying economic conditions are "getting worse" increased from 78% in November to 81% during the first week of December and 82% over the last three days.



At this point, it is not clear whether House passage of the auto bailout Wednesday night will help improve overall consumer confidence. Clearly, jobs continue to be a major issue. So far, Americans seem to be suffering from so-called "bailout fatigue," with majorities or pluralities now opposing not only the auto bailout, but also the original $700 billion financial institutions bailout.

On the other hand, another failure of the Congress to pass bailout legislation, as happened during the initial unsuccessful effort to rescue the financial institutions, could raise economic concerns even further. This is especially problematic given concerns about the current vacuum in economic leadership between now and President-elect Obama's inauguration. It seems instructive that consumer confidence did improve slightly during the week Obama held press conferences on three consecutive days to announce his new economic team. And while Jan. 20 is only weeks away, it can seem like a long time when the economy is losing more than 100,000 jobs a week.

Regardless, what has been happening in Washington, D.C., has seemed to do little to boost consumer confidence and may be doing just the opposite, as Gallup's consumer confidence measures suggest a slight further deterioration in early December. This is not good news for the nation's retailers hoping for a last-minute surge in holiday spending, or for the economy as a whole. Still, one can hope that Americans' optimism will be renewed -- at least to some degree -- simply by turning the calendar to a new year, in particular one that will bring new leadership to the country.

Survey Methods

Gallup is interviewing no fewer than 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide each day during 2008. The economic questions analyzed in this report are asked of a random half-sample of respondents each day. The monthly results reported here are based on combined data of more than 8,000 interviews each in August, September, October, and November 2008. For results based on these samples, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Results for Dec. 1-7, 2008, are based on combined data of more than 3,000 interviews. For results based on this sample, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Results for Dec. 7-9, 2008, are based on combined data of more than 1,500 interviews. For results based on this sample, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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