PRINCETON, NJ -- An upper-income spending splurge led the way to strong self-reported spending during Christmas week 2010. Upper-income Americans' self-reported consumer spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online averaged $183 per day during the week ending Dec. 26 -- up from $126 during the same week in 2009.
After matching 2009 spending levels during the week ending Dec. 5, and trailing during the week ending Dec. 12, upper-income spending surpassed year-ago levels during the week ending Dec. 19 before surging during Christmas week.
Overall Spending Jumped During Christmas Week
Americans' overall self-reported spending surged to an average of $85 per day during the week ending Dec. 26 -- up from $77 during the prior week and $66 during the first two weeks of December. As a result, spending during Christmas week 2010 exceeded that of 2009 and 2008.
Christmas Week Spending Surges Across the Nation
Weekly spending ran slightly below year-ago levels in most regions of the country during the first two weeks of December. Spending matched that of 2009 during the week ending Dec. 19 before passing year-ago levels during Christmas week.
Although Gallup's consumer spending data are more a measure of whether consumers are spending or saving their disposable incomes, this late surge in upper-income spending is consistent with the sharp increase in weekly shopping center sales reported by the International Council of Shopping Centers, and with an increase in retail sales as projected by MasterCard SpendingPulse.
Further, Gallup's Christmas week results might be interpreted as reflecting an immediate-term success for the new legislation extending the Bush tax cuts signed a little more than a week ago. During the first two weeks of December, and prior to passage of this bill that also extended unemployment benefits and added new Obama tax cuts, upper-income Americans seemed to be holding back with their spending, lagging behind that of 2009. Although some might argue the Christmas week upper-income spending splurge is a coincidence, upper-income consumers report spending substantially more following the passage of the bill.
Upper-income spending is essential to future economic growth and the creation of new jobs. Upper-income Americans are the consumers who have the disposable income to spend if they so chose and they have been holding back given the uncertainties surrounding the future course of the economy and, possibly, government tax policies. By increasing tax certainty for the next two years, the new legislation might have encouraged these better-off consumers to feel more comfortable spending more freely during Christmas week. The "wealth effects" associated with increasing stock values on Wall Street may have also encouraged upper-income spending late this year.
Regardless, Gallup's most recent spending results suggest that the nation's retailers have had a surprisingly good Christmas -- particularly, those who serve upper-income consumers. In turn, this lays the ground work for increased optimism about the economy as we enter 2011.
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Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey during the week ending Dec. 26, 2010, with a random sample of 2,464 adults, with weekly random samples of about 3,000 adults for each of the first three weeks of December, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For results based on the total monthly sample of more than 15,000 national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.