Past Findings From The "How COVID-19 Has Changed Consumer Confidence in All 50 States" Report

Tracking how consumer perceptions have shifted in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak
May 04, 2020 at 7:04 pm UTC

This page serves as a resource for previous analyses from Morning Consult's state-by-state consumer confidence tracking. For the latest data and updates, please refer to this page.


Takeaways From The July 1st Data Set

Over the past two weeks, trends in consumer confidence in a given state closely correspond to the number of new per capita COVID-19 cases in that state. From June 16 to July 1, consumer confidence plateaued or even moderately decreased in states with increasing new per capita COVID-19 cases. Conversely, consumers in states with stable or decreasing daily per capita COVID-19 cases grew more optimistic about the economy and their personal finances.

Unlike during the initial fall in confidence in mid-March when consumers across the country responded relatively similarly, more recent developments reflect regional dynamics, as discussed in detail in the June 15 analysis.

While the relationship between daily per capita COVID-19 cases and consumer confidence is present across most states, it is not a universal rule. Consumers across the country may view differently the economic costs associated with increases in COVID-19 cases, or they may more directly experience the benefits of reopening segments of the economy. For example, many Americans who lost their jobs as a result of the virus remain unemployed. While a second wave of the virus may decrease the likelihood of these Americans returning to work, they already suffered the acute financial harm inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

From June 16 through July 1, consumer confidence in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas remained flat or even decreased. All of these states reported increases in daily per capita COVID-19 cases since June 16. All of these states exhibit a fairly clear peak or plateau in confidence on or around June 20, with Arizona and Nevada trending downwards since then.

One notable exception to this list of states is Mississippi, which experienced a sharp increase in the number of new per capita cases during the last week of June. Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases, consumers in Mississippi grew more confident throughout the end of the month. However, if the trend in COVID-19 cases in Mississippi continues, one would expect consumers in Mississippi to grow less confident.

Consumers in states with stable or decreasing daily per capita COVID-19 cases generally grew more optimistic about the economy and their personal finances from June 16 to July 1. For example, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York all exhibit clear positive trends in consumer confidence over the past two weeks as the number of daily per capita cases stabilized or decreased in those states.

Consumer confidence fell in New Hampshire and Maine towards the end of the month, but consumers in both states remain more confident at the beginning of July than they were in the middle of June. The same is not true of consumers in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas.


Takeaways From The June 15th Data Set

An analysis of Morning Consult’s consumer confidence data across all 50 states, with a focus on developments since the beginning of June, shows that while most states experienced a rebound in confidence early June, the size of the increase differs across the country. The differences across states and regions closely correspond to differences in the average daily number of cases of COVID-19.

Consumers living in states and regions reporting an increase in the average number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases did not experience the same increase in confidence as those living in states or regions with stable or falling new cases. While other factors such as state-level differences in employment conditions are also likely to drive differences in consumer confidence, the Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) data finds a close relationship between the daily number of cases of COVID-19 and consumer confidence at the state level.

Key findings include:

  • Consumer confidence increased across the country over the past two weeks, supporting a geographically broad recovery in consumer spending. That being said, some states have fared better than others over the past two weeks.
  • Since June 1, consumer confidence has increased by 2.2 points on average. In six states (Montana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Kansas, Connecticut and Iowa), confidence increased by over 5 points during that time period.
  • Consumer confidence has decreased in only six states: Hawaii, Washington, Alaska, Nebraska, South Carolina and Oklahoma. Even though the average decrease among these six states was only 0.4 points, they are trending downward while the rest of the country enjoys a rebound in confidence.
  • From the perspective of businesses and policymakers, this state-level data indicates that the rebound in consumer spending in June is likely to be stronger in the Northeast than it is in the South, the region that has the most states with increasing COVID-19 cases.
  • This data complicates the challenges facing state policymakers. As they work to strike the right balance between easing restrictions on certain economic activities and mitigating future outbreaks of the virus, they also have to consider the second-order effects of fewer restrictions on consumer confidence.


Takeaways From The June 1st Data Set

1. A Small Rebound in Consumer Confidence in Many States: Particularly in the West, there has been a notable uptick in consumer confidence since mid-May, particularly in Western states such as Montana, Utah, Idaho and Colorado.

2. Consumer Confidence in Georgia Has Yet to Rebound, Despite Reopening: Gov. Brian Kemp began easing stay-at-home restrictions on April 24 in Georgia. Despite reopening, consumers in Georgia have yet to grown more confident in the economy since the middle of April, even as consumers in surrounding states have:

  • From February 15 to April 15, the Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) in Georgia fell by 23.03%, which is less than the 26% average across the seven states in the South Atlantic Census Division.
  • What is particularly unique about Georgia is that the ICS actually fell from April 15 to May 31. As the state began lifting restrictions, the ICS fell by 1.03%. The ICS on average rose by 2.16% across states in the South Atlantic.
  • The drop in confidence in Georgia since April 15 is the result of dramatic decreases in Georgians’ assessments of their current personal financial conditions relative to a year ago and of business conditions in the country over the next five years, down 4.05% and 7.75%, respectively.


Takeaways From The May 15th Data Set

1. Despite a recent stabilization and rebound, consumers across all states remain less confident than in early March: Consumer confidence across almost every state has returned to where it was 30 days ago with only a few exceptions. South Dakota, Nebraska, Vermont and North Carolina are more than 4 points higher than they were a month ago, whereas Alaska is the only state more than 4 points below its mid-April value. However, consumers across all 50 states remain much less confident than they were in early March, before President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency on March 13.

2. Do consumers care more about national or state-level COVID-19 developments? The relationship between state-level consumer confidence and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in a given state is not ex ante obvious. Based on prior cross-country analysis, we know that U.S. consumer confidence is more closely correlated with the number of confirmed cases than with the number of COVID-19-induced deaths. Thus, if consumers primarily care about the severity of the outbreak in their state, then changes in state-level consumer confidence should be more highly negatively correlated with the number of confirmed cases in that state than in the country as a whole. Alternatively, consumers may view the coronavirus as a national problem and as a threat to the national economy. If so, then changes in state-level consumer confidence should be more highly negatively correlated with the number of confirmed cases in the country as a whole.

3. Consumers’ views of the economy evolve more closely with nationwide COVID-19 developments. Consumer confidence across the country is more strongly correlated with the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country as a whole rather than in one particular state.

a. Since Jan. 1, 2020, consumer confidence across all 50 states is negatively correlated with the number of confirmed cases in that particular state as well as the number of confirmed cases in the country as a whole. However, the average correlation is higher for the country as a whole than it is for any particular state (minus 0.90 vs. minus 0.87).

b. Consumer confidence across most states (31 out of 50) exhibits a higher correlation with the number of confirmed cases in the country compared to the number of confirmed cases in the state of residence.

c. Consumer confidence in some states is weakly correlated with the number of confirmed cases in that state, but the same is not true of the number of confirmed cases in the country as a whole. The weakest correlation with national numbers is in Nebraska (minus 0.84). In Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska, consumer confidence is only moderately negatively correlated (i.e., less than minus 0.70) with the number of confirmed cases in that state.

4. Severity of an outbreak in a given state sometimes explains why consumers care more about state-level COVID data, but not always. The severity of the outbreak in a given state does not appear to be the single determinant of whether or not consumers are influenced more by the number of cases in their own particular state versus in the country as a whole. For example, New York has the highest number of confirmed cases in absolute and per capita terms, and consumer confidence in New York is more strongly negatively correlated with the number of cases in New York than in the country (minus 0.95 vs minus 0.91). Vermont, on the other hand, has reported relatively few confirmed cases, but consumers there are also more concerned about the outbreak in the state than they are in the country (minus 0.96 vs. minus 0.87).

5. Geographic isolation influences consumers’ prioritization of COVID data. Geographic isolation may help explain why some consumers in some states care more about developments in their state than in the country as a whole. Vermont is relatively isolated from the rest of the country. The same is true of Alaska and Hawaii, where consumer confidence data shows consumers there also appear to be more concerned with developments in their particular state than in the country as a whole.

6. The fall in confidence didn’t start with statewide shutdowns, and reopenings haven’t provided a boost. While the state-level shutdowns may have exacerbated the fall in confidence in late March, consumers had been already growing less optimistic about the economy. Consumer confidence across all 50 states began to decrease by March 19, before any of the states issued stay-at-home orders. Similarly, consumer confidence stabilized across most states in mid-April before the first states began reopening their economies.

A headshot photograph of John Leer
John Leer
Chief Economist

John Leer leads Morning Consult’s global economic research, overseeing the company’s economic data collection, validation and analysis. He is an authority on the effects of consumer preferences, expectations and experiences on purchasing patterns, prices and employment.

John continues to advance scholarship in the field of economics, recently partnering with researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to design a new approach to measuring consumers’ inflation expectations.

This novel approach, now known as the Indirect Consumer Inflation Expectations measure, leverages Morning Consult’s high-frequency survey data to capture unique insights into consumers’ expectations for future inflation.

Prior to Morning Consult, John worked for Promontory Financial Group, offering strategic solutions to financial services firms on matters including credit risk modeling and management, corporate governance, and compliance risk management.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy with honors from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in economics and management studies (MEMS) from Humboldt University in Berlin. 

His analysis has been cited in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Economist and more.

Follow him on Twitter @JohnCLeer. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected]

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