Consumer Confidence Slightly Higher in September

by Frank Newport

Confidence increased in second half of the month

PRINCETON, NJ -- Consumer confidence for the month of September improved modestly over August, with most of the gains coming in the last half of the month. Overall, Gallup's Consumer Confidence Index for September was at -23, an improvement over August's -25 reading, and the most positive monthly average since Gallup Daily tracking began in January 2008.

Consumer Confidence Index, August and September 2009

Gallup's Consumer Confidence Index is based on interviews with 500 randomly selected Americans each day, for a total of approximately 15,000 interviews each month. The fact that the interviews are spread evenly over the month provides an accurate assessment of consumer attitudes for the entire monthly period, and allows for the analysis of trends as the month progresses.

A key finding in September is that consumer confidence gained for the most part in the second half of the month, although there was a drop-off in the last three days of the month, Sept. 28-30.

Consumer Confidence Index, Weekly Averages, August-September 2009

The average confidence reading for Sept. 1-15 was -25, compared to a more positive -22 for the second half of September (despite the more negative readings in the last three days of the month). The last half of September was also more positive than the August average of -25.

Consumer Confidence Index, Monthly/Half-Monthl Averages, August-September 2009

The finding that September represented a slight increase in consumer confidence over August contrasts with reports from the Conference Board that consumer confidence for September was down slightly from the previous month (53.1 in September, compared to 54.5 in August).

On the other hand, the Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index was more positive in September (73.5) than it was in August (65.7).

According to the Conference Board, its September numbers, released Sept. 29, were based on mail surveys received through Sept. 22, and it is likely that many of these were filled out in the first part of the month.

Therefore, the Conference Board figures tend to reflect attitudes as they existed in the first part of September, and Gallup's continuous tracking shows that consumer attitudes at that time were indeed more negative than they were later in the month.

As noted in Tuesday's weekly update on consumer confidence, the improved picture of consumer confidence has not yet translated into a sustained increase in consumer spending, nor does it reflect a sustained uptick in the jobs situation.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 13,744 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 1-30, 2009, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.

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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