Many Utah consumers are angry that President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney last month, and their suddenly sour confidence about the economy shows it.
Zions Bank on Tuesday said its monthly Consumer Attitude Index plunged to 75.9 in November from 87.1 in October — the largest decline in its 23-month history — and that Romney’s loss was to blame. A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy.
“The state of Utah disproportionately supported Mitt Romney, and their response to Barack Obama winning the election was very negative,” said Randy Shumway, CEO of The Cicero Group/Dan Jones and Associates, which surveyed 500 people from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15 on behalf of Zions. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Nationally, the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index of Americans rose slightly to 73.7 in November from 73.1 in October, helped by a better outlook for hiring over the next six months. Both readings were the best since February 2008.
Higher consumer confidence could translate into a more robust holiday season and stronger economic growth. Consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity.
In Utah, the Zions index reached an all-time high in October ahead of the presidential election. Consumers were apparently buoyed by signs that Utah’s adopted son had closed the gap on Obama’s lead in national polls. But when Romney lost on Nov. 6, the mood of many Utahns turned churlish.
Shumway said respondents to his survey weren’t asked about the election. Instead, many people took it upon themselves to offer their opinions about the outcome.
“The elections were repeatedly brought up,” he said. “What we heard in the survey was that people were concerned about the direction of the economy, and that’s directly correlated with Utah’s disagreement with the direction the federal government is taking the economy.”
Shumway thinks the November index is probably an anomaly. Utah’s economy is producing jobs at a faster clip than the rest of the country and the unemployment rate is falling. What’s more, the number of Americans who shopped over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend suggests holiday shopping will be robust. But, he said, if Congress doesn’t reach a deal in regard to tax hikes and spending cuts before January, consumer spending could be stifled.
Along the Wasatch Front, politics didn’t dampen consumers’ appetite for books in November, said Catherine Weller, co-owner of Weller Book Works, an independent bookseller in Trolley Square.
“We saw no drop in sales immediately after the election and no reported loss of consumer confidence,” Weller said. “What we have heard from customers is a concern about the ability of all parties in Washington, particularly in Congress, to deal with the financial issues they need to deal with right now.”
Utah consumer attitude index lowest in a year
The presidential election on Nov. 6 caused many Utahns to reassess their economic prospects
November 2011, 67.7
January, 79.8, 2012
Source: Zions Bank