U.S. Consumers Most Comfortable Heading Into Midterms Since 1998

(Bloomberg) -- A measure of U.S. consumer sentiment is at its highest level heading into a midterm election since 1998, but this time it comes with a deep partisan divide, according to Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index figures released Thursday.

Highlights of Consumer Comfort (Week Ended Oct. 28)

  • Weekly consumer comfort index rose to 60.3 from 60.1; remains near 17-year high 
  • Gauge of views on the economy increased to 65.9, highest since Feb. 2001
  • Buying climate index ticked down to eight-week low of 51, while personal finances index was little changed at 64.1 

Key Takeaways

Upbeat consumer sentiment may have benefited Democrats in 1998, when the party bucked historical trends and gained congressional seats while having control of the White House. That year, Democrats and Republicans saw eye-to-eye in the consumer survey, while now there’s a stark divide: Republicans’ sentiment exceeds that of Democrats by 26.4 points. Independents are tacking closer to Democrats, a positive sign for the party as it seeks gains in next week’s congressional elections while Republicans control the legislature and the White House.

Even with the divisions, the overall relatively upbeat views indicate Americans are largely brushing off a sliding stock market that just recorded its worst month since 2011. The lowest unemployment rate since 1969 and a pickup in wages are helping keep sentiment elevated, while the economy just posted its best back-to-back quarters of growth since 2014.

Other Details

  • Gender gap also remains wide, with index among men at 67.6 and women at 53.5; white respondents’ index exceeded that of black people by 23.5 points
  • Gauge among those separated, widowed or divorced at highest since December 2000; comfort among married respondents declined to two-month low

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