ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Lower gas prices have helped increased consumer optimism about the economy, and for the first time since June, a majority of American consumers (53%) are optimistic about the economy, according to the latest Consumer Fuels Survey results released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
Consumer optimism surged five percentage points from 48% in September, the largest monthly increase in optimism since April. Consumers ages 18 to 34 were most optimistic (63%); regionally, consumers in the West were most optimistic (60%).
In part, the rise in optimism is fueled by consumer’s perceptions of falling gas prices. Over half of U.S. consumers (54%) say that gas prices are lower than they were the previous month. Consumers in the Northeast (67%), South (58%), and West (58%) were more likely to say gas prices have declined, compared with just over one in three consumers in the Midwest (35%).
Nearly three in 10 (28%) U.S. consumers say they have seen gas stations in their area selling regular gasoline for less than $2 per gallon, including a majority of consumers from the South (51%).
Consumers are not necessarily expecting prices to fall even lower over the next month, however; only 19% of consumers think that gas prices will be lower in 30 days than they are currently. That’s the lowest percentage of Americans who expect falling prices since July.
What about the possibility of sub-$2 gas? Only one in five drivers (19%) who have yet to see gas priced under $2 per gallon expect to see that price by Thanksgiving.
“With 77% of consumers saying that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy, it’s clear that recent price declines have increased overall consumer optimism,” said NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives Jeff Lenard. “However, consumers are also expressing reservations about further price declines, so it remains to be seen how long this optimism will hold.”
NACS, which represents the convenience-store industry that sells 80% of the gas sold in the country, conducts the monthly consumer sentiment survey to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The NACS survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland; 1,200 gas consumers nationally were surveyed Oct. 6-9, 2015.