Consumer Pessimism Lingers

gas_pumps-150x131Women and consumers aged 50+ are the most pessimistic about the economy, according to a recent survey.

Despite relatively low gas prices, consumers still aren’t feeling great about the economy. For the fourth straight month at least three in five consumers (61%) say that they are pessimistic about economic prospects, according the latest monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey that examines how gas prices affect consumer sentiment.

Women feel significantly worse about the economy than men, with 66% saying that they were pessimistic, compared to 56% of men. There are other significant demographic variations. More than one in four (26%) consumers age 50 or higher said that they are “very pessimistic,” compared to only 11% of consumers ages 18 to 34. Consumers in the South and Northeast were equally “very pessimistic” (23%), while only 15% of consumers in the Midwest indicated so.

The national survey of drivers is conducted to measure the effect that gas prices have on consumer sentiment. Once again consumer pessimism increased as gas prices increased, although both increases were slight.  

Consumers are also relatively pessimistic about the future—more than half (51%) think that gas prices will be higher next month. This marks the first time in three months that a majority of consumers feel that gas prices will increase.

While consumer pessimism lingers, consumers also say that gas prices have to go significantly higher—and increase more than 60 cents to $3.93 per gallon—before they would reduce the amount that they drive.

“Consumers remain frustrated by a variety of factors and that shows in our survey results. Pessimism has remained stubbornly high for the past four months even though gas prices have dropped 35 cents per gallon over the same time frame,” said NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. “The retailers likely to best capture holiday shopping traffic are those who best acknowledge consumer angst and focus on delivering value to shoppers.”

Every month, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) conducts a nationwide survey in partnership with Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC to measure consumer perceptions about gas prices and how they relate to broader economic conditions. For the December survey, 801 gas consumers were surveyed from Dec. 3-5, 2013. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/-3.46 at the 95% confidence interval and higher for subgroups. The OPIS weekly national average price for gas was $3.276 on Dec. 2, the week in which the survey was fielded.

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