Consumer Confidence? It May Depend on Your Politics

Photograph by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg

George W. Bush confetti after the Republican National Convention in New York, on September 2, 2004.

Among Democrats, consumer confidence is improving. For Republicans, it’s worsening. Why?

Maybe it has something to do with election-year politics and a presidential campaign that is becoming more focused.

“With partisanship in full force, Democrats may be filtering their assessments through the prism of supporting the incumbent president, Republicans the opposite,” Langer Research Associates said in a written analysis about the weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which asks Americans to rate the national economy, the buying climate and their personal finances.

The Democratic index was minus 22.4 for the week ended April 8, up from minus 41.8 just five weeks earlier. Over the same period, the Republican measure fell to minus 39.4 from minus 26.8.

This has happened before in the heat of a White House re-election campaign, during which the incumbent’s economic record is defended by allies and denounced by the out-of-power party.

For much of 2004, when Republican President George W. Bush won re-election in a close race over Democratic challenger John Kerry, the Republican index was overwhelmingly higher than the Democratic index. In the week ended July 18, 2004, the Republican index was plus 43 and the Democratic index was minus 47, a 90-point gap.

In 1996, when Democratic President Bill Clinton was re-elected over Republican nominee Bob Dole, the index “was about average among Republicans, but again better than average among Democrats,” Langer Research Associates said.

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