Economic Confidence Remains Depressed Thus Far in March

by Lydia Saad

Heightened view that the economy is getting worse has held since late February

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is -31 for the week of March 15-21, continuing a trend of depressed confidence that began three weeks prior.

Gallup Economic Confidence Index, Weekly Trend Since December 2009

Consumer Outlook Dimmer Since Late February

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is based on Americans' answers to two questions -- one focusing on views of current economic conditions in the country and the other on the economic outlook. Both measures are in negative territory -- meaning that more Americans express negative than positive sentiments on each dimension -- and have been since January 2008.

The dampened level of overall economic confidence in March comes exclusively from a drop in economic outlook that began in the final week of February and has since held.

Gallup Economic Confidence Index and Index Components, Weekly Trend Since December 2009

Before late February, the last time the overall Economic Confidence Index descended to -31 or lower was November 2009. However, confidence remains much stronger than it was throughout the economic crisis in late 2008 and early 2009.


Given the weekly trends in Gallup's Economic Confidence Index, the monthly average for all of March is likely to be lower than the average for February. However, this downturn set in around the last week of February.

That's an important point to remember when Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan reports its Index of Consumer Sentiment on Friday, and the Conference Board releases its preliminary March Consumer Confidence Index later in the month. Any decline in those figures (which are based on surveys conducted in the first two to three weeks of the month) will reflect changes in consumer views that will actually have taken place more than four weeks ago, and have since stabilized.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 2,976 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 15-21, 2010 (with no interviewing on March 19), 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 ±2 percentage points.

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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