Consumer Confidence Dips, But Republicans Still Notably Optimistic

As the White House battles a coronavirus outbreak that includes the president being diagnosed with Covid-19, Americans’ overall confidence in the economy has taken a slight dip. But confidence is still holding fairly steady in spite of widespread health concerns about the pandemic.

Overall consumer confidence measured at 52 this week, according to the Ipsos U.S. Consumer Confidence Weekly Tracker. That’s a decrease of 2.6 points from last week.

Ipsos, which surveyed 921 respondents online on Oct. 6 and 7, provided the results exclusively to Forbes Advisor. The survey is conducted weekly to track consumer sentiment over time, using a series of 11 questions to determine whether consumers feel positively or negatively about the current state of the economy and where it looks to be going in the future. 

Each of the subcategories Ipsos tracks to measure overall confidence, including current financial situation, financial outlook, investment confidence and job security confidence, decreased from last week. Only one of them exceeds pre-pandemic levels. 

The expectations index, which measures how respondents view their personal financial situation and local economy, was down 1.5 points this week, but remains nearly two points above its early-March 2020 levels. That number is above the pandemic average by about two points, and above the historical average (since 2002) by more than four points.

A majority of Americans continue to believe that reopening the economy is the right thing to do, with 52% of respondents agreeing the economy will recover quickly once pandemic restrictions are relaxed. Meanwhile, 47% said the economy should be reopened even if the coronavirus isn’t contained—a decrease of two points from last week.

Republicans Consistently More Confident in Economy Than Democrats

During the pandemic, people identifying as Republicans have been the most confident, while Democrats have been the least confident, with as much as a 20-point difference between them at times. But confidence fluctuations can be influenced by current events. 

Those peaks and valleys correlate to similar highlights in President Trump’s approval ratings since the start of the pandemic. Since March, the president’s approval rating has hovered between 40% and 46%, according to polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight. 

Trump’s approval rating dropped to its lowest in early- to mid-July, based on FiveThirtyEight’s calculations. At that time, there was a lot of media coverage on initial pandemic housing protections and unemployment benefits running out later in the month—but it wasn’t clear at the time how impossible it would be for Democrat and Republican lawmakers to reach an agreement for a second stimulus package. 

Democrats’ confidence dipped near its pandemic low at that time, before spiking back up and wavering throughout August during a shaky period that saw the implementation of Trump’s executive orders to bolster the economy. 

Meanwhile, Republican confidence held steady throughout that same period, with far less week-to-week fluctuation.

Republican confidence hit a pandemic high of 67.3 last week, but dropped about six points in this week’s report. This week’s survey was conducted after Trump was hospitalized with Covid-19. He returned to the White House on Monday, claiming to feel better than he had in years. At least 22 people who attended White House events or work there have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past two weeks. But Republicans’ confidence is still nearly 16 points higher than Democrats’.

Alongside those identifying as Democrats, respondents who are working part time or earning lower incomes were among the least optimistic. Those earning higher incomes and college-educated respondents were more confident, indicating that personal economic status remains a major factor in consumer outlook.

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