He was right. The Consumer Confidence Index, which has gauged our economic outlook for five decades, saw a spike after Trump won the White House. That’s because Americans anticipate more jobs, higher pay and a stronger business climate.
Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board, a business-focused research group that runs the index, said the election apparently triggered a collective mood lift. But there’s a catch.
“Looking ahead to 2017,” Franco said in a statement, “consumers’ continued optimism will depend on whether or not their expectations are realized.”
These expectations appear to stem from campaign promises — and they're lofty. Trump pledged to create 25 million new jobs and wipe out regulations he says hinder American business.
“We’re going to win at every level,” he declared this spring. “We’re going to win economically. We’re going to win so much you may even get tired of winning. And you’ll say please, please, it’s too much winning, we can’t take it anymore, Mr. President.”
The Consumer Confidence Index is released monthly based on a survey of 2,500 Americans' opinions about the current and future state of the economy. In the December survey, 23.6 percent of respondents said they thought the next six months would enhance American business conditions, up from last month’s 16.4 percent. The share expecting to see accelerated job creation, meanwhile, leapt from 16.1 to 21 percent.
The index number — benchmarked at 100 in 1985 — is calculated based on data from five survey questions related to consumer sentiments about jobs, wages and economic opportunity. A confidence boost among older Americans skewed the numbers this month, the data show. Those older than 55 felt increasingly good about the nation’s fate, surging from 79 this time last year to 105.5. Optimism among those younger than 35, who typically project sunnier views, fell slightly over that time, from 120.6 to 118.9.
Matt Dallek, a political historian and professor at George Washington University, said Trump’s message excited voters — which could set them up for disappointment.
“They took him literally,” Dallek said. “The size of his promises and how detached they are from what realistically can be accomplished are real perils for him politically.”
Trump traveled the country for more than a year, visiting crumbling local economies, and told supporters he’d bring back their jobs, Dallek said. And though American jobs have been on the rise, manufacturing positions, for example, have dwindled for decades. Economists say the job loss has more to do with technology than taxes or trade policy.
Jon Nordstrom, a retired electrician and government employee in Marion, Ind., where two-thirds of people backed Trump (including Nordstrom), wants the president-elect to follow through on lowering the country's taxes — a move he believes would jump-start the economy. But he wasn’t impressed by Trump’s deal to stop 800 jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis from moving to Mexico. (Trump had pledged to save 1,100.)
“A lot of those people are losing their jobs,” said Nordstrom, 71. “Where are they going to find employment again at the level of income they’re making?”
Trump voter Ted Bergman, 63, owner of Bergman Tool & Machine in Mercer County, Ohio, which went 80 percent Trump, said he expects business to improve in Trump's economy. He lost some work last year to China and had to lay off an employee.
“If Trump screws it up,” Bergman said, “we’ll fire him in four years.”