Political Independents Finally Lose Recession Blues

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Pedestrians carry shopping bags on Market Street in San Francisco.

Looking at consumer confidence, political independents are in a Christmas holiday mood — if we look back to 2007.

Sentiment among those without a party affiliation climbed last week to the highest level since the week ended December 23, 2007, according to details of the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index issued today. That means they just now made up all the ground lost during the recession that began that month and ended in June 2009.

For all Americans, the index last week reached its highest level since January 2008.

Record stock prices and rising home values may be boosting sentiment, which has especially improved among high-income earners and homeowners. Given independent voters’ demographics, the move up could be grounded in income and equity gains.

A comparatively high proportion of independents say they are employed, based on an August 2012 Pew Research study, with 37 percent reporting having jobs compared to 33 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of Republicans. Confidence among the full-time employed has improved, climbing last week to its highest reading this year, according to the Bloomberg index.

Additionally, 34 percent of independents in the Pew study reported making more than $75,000 annually, compared to 32 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans.

Confidence of upper-income households with investments may be benefiting from the stock-market rebound, after the S&P 500 Index closed at a record 1,597.57 April 30.

The gap in comfort between Republicans and Democrats in today’s report shrank as members of both parties became less pessimistic. Republicans added 3.1 points for the group’s best reading in more than a year, and Democrats’ confidence gained 0.6 points. The differential fell to 7.5 points, the smallest since February.

Republicans had been much more pessimistic than Democrats heading into and just after the November election as President Barack Obama’s odds of being re-elected improved.

“As the economy gains, political allegiance may be losing some of its influence on consumer sentiment,” Langer Research Associates, which collects the data, wrote in its analysis of this week’s numbers.

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