PRINCETON, NJ -- Overall self-reported daily U.S. consumer spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online averaged $71 per day in November, compared with $70 in October. While spending was flat in November compared with October, it remains above the levels seen earlier in 2011 and is up 7.6% from a year ago, when it averaged $66. In turn, this tends to support expectations that Christmas spending will be better this year than last.
Upper-Income Spending Is Flat at 2011 High Level
Spending among Americans making at least $90,000 per year averaged $131 per day in November -- essentially the same as the $128 of October, but also the highest upper-income spending of 2011. Upper-income Americans spent 9.1% more this November than last ($120).
Lower- and Middle-Income Americans' Spending Remains Flat
Americans who make less than $90,000 per year reported spending an average of $60 per day during November -- essentially the same as the $59 they spent in each of the past three months. Still, lower- and middle-income spending is up 7.1% year-over-year.
Spending Surges in the South but Falls in All Other Regions
While spending was up in every region year-over-year, November spending was higher than that of October only in the South. The West, at $79, saw the highest average spending, but this was down from $85 in October. In contrast, spending in the South surged to an average $74, up from $60 in October.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of recent spending trends, as recorded by Gallup, is that upper-income spending remains at its highest levels of the year and is up 9.1% from a year ago. These are the Americans who have the disposable income to spend if they want to, and the Gallup trends make clear that upper-income spending really drives spending at the national level. While economic confidence remains negative across all income groups, the increase in upper-income spending during the last two months aligns with an improvement in upper-income confidence since August.
In part, this may result from the much better performance of Wall Street since August. Fears of a double-dip recession that permeated the investment sector a few months ago have dissipated as the economy has shown signs of slightly stronger growth in recent months. Fears of an immediate increase in upper-income taxes seem to have moderated as the congressional "supercommittee" stalemated.
It is also encouraging that year-over-year spending increased in every region of the country last month. In this regard, the South and the Midwest have had the best job markets during recent months, while the West has shown the most year-over-year improvement.
Despite political and economic chaos in Europe, a fragile U.S. economy, and general lack of economic confidence, it appears Americans are in more of a spending mood this year than in recent holiday seasons. To the extent consumers actually spend more this Christmas, it would be good news for the nation's retailers and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:
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For Gallup Daily tracking, Gallup interviews approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The consumer spending results are based on a random sample of approximately 500 current full- and part-time employees each day.
National results for August are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 14,548 national adults conducted Nov. 1-30, 2011. For this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
Upper-income results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 2,535 national adults conducted Nov. 1-30, 2011. For this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Middle- and lower-income results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 9,707 national adults conducted Nov. 1-30, 2011. For this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
Regional results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 3,000 national adults per region conducted Nov. 1-30, 2011. For these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 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 www.gallup.com.