About The Consumer Confidence Survey®
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index ® (CCI) is a barometer of the health of the U.S. economy from the perspective of the consumer. The index is based on consumers’ perceptions of current business and employment conditions, as well as their expectations for six months hence regarding business conditions, employment, and income. The Consumer Confidence Index and its related series are among the earliest sets of economic indicators available each month and are closely watched as leading indicators for the U.S. economy.
In 1967, The Conference Board began the Consumer Confidence Survey (CCS) as a mail survey conducted every two months; in June 1977, the CCS began monthly collection and publication. The CCS has maintained consistent concepts, definitions, questions, and mail survey operations since its inception.
Changeover to New Provider of the Consumer Confidence Survey®
As of February 2011, The Conference Board has changed survey providers from TNS to The Nielsen Company for ongoing CCS operational support. Nielsen uses a mail survey specifically designed for the Consumer Confidence Survey. The new design uses a probability-design random sample, post-stratification weights (for gender, income, geography, and age), and the U.S. Census X-12 seasonal adjustment. The CCS concepts, questions and mail survey collection method remain unchanged.
From September 2010 to January 2011, a five-month pilot test of the new sample design was conducted in parallel with the existing design. Three months of previously published data (November 2010 to January 2011) have been restated to smooth the transition, which makes November 2010 the effective changeover month.
Consumer Confidence Index
Present Situation Index
- Respondents’ appraisal of current business conditions.
- Respondents’ appraisal of current employment conditions.
- Respondents’ expectations regarding business conditions six months hence.
- Respondents’ expectations regarding employment conditions six months hence.
- Respondents’ expectations regarding their total family income six months hence.
The Consumer Confidence Survey uses an address-based mail sample design. The sampling frame is derived from the files created by the U.S. Postal Service, which represent near-universal coverage of all residential households in the United States. The CCS frame is updated monthly to ensure up-to-date coverage of U.S. households.
The CCS uses a probability sample design to select each month’s random sample from the household universe frame. The frame is first stratified geographically within the census division to provide a proportionate geographic distribution, after which a systematic sample of household addresses is selected. The sample addresses are then used for the mailing.
The CCS mailing is scheduled so that the questionnaires reach sample households on or about the first of each month. Returns flow in throughout the collection period, with the sample close-out for preliminary estimates occurring around the eighteenth of the month. Any returns received after then are used to produce the final estimates for the month, which are published with the release of the following month’s data. Completed questionnaires are checked in as they are received and then scheduled for data entry. Data fields are edited for invalid entries and, if necessary, are flagged for review. As part of the ongoing quality control process, a random sample of questionnaires is selected for independent review/validation by a senior member of the data collection staff. The targeted responding sample size—approximately 3,000 completed questionnaires—has remained essentially unchanged throughout the history of the CCI.
For the CCI, The Conference Board publishes U.S. totals and breakouts by census geography and demographic categories that include census division, age, and income. To improve the accuracy of the estimates and ensure the proportionate representation of these categories in the estimates, the CCS uses a post-stratification weighting structure covering the following categories:
- Census Division (9 Census divisions)
- Age of Head of Household (<30, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60+)
- Gender of Head of Household (Male/Female)
- Income of Household (<$15,000; $15,000-$24,999; $25,000-$34,999; $35,000-$49,999; $50,000-$74,999; $75,000-$99,999; $100,000-$124,999; $125,000+)
The post-stratification weighting uses an iterative proportional fitting technique for simultaneously balancing sample weights across several different population control groups. This technique ensures that sample-based estimates of the household population categories match the independent census population controls within +/- 1 percent.
Calculation of the Consumer Confidence Index®
Each of the five CCS survey questions has three response options: positive, negative, or neutral. The response proportions to each question are seasonally adjusted. For each question, the positive figure is divided by the sum of the positive and negative to yield a proportion, which we call the "relative" value. For each question, the average relative value for the calendar year 1985 is then used as a benchmark to yield the index value for that question. The indexes are then averaged together as follows:
- Consumer Confidence Index: Average of all five indexes
- Present Situation Index: Average of indexes for questions 1 and 2
- Expectations Index: Average of indexes for questions 3, 4, and 5
Data as of January 2011 (final) use the Census X-12 seasonal adjustment software for the publication series where needed. Seasonal adjustment helps remove periodic seasonal fluctuations in the series due to events such as weather, holidays, and the beginning and end of the school year. While the CCS series are typically not highly seasonal, the X-12 software helps reduce any residual seasonality in the various data series.
The CCS has used the same concepts, questions, and mail survey collection method since the start of the series in 1967. In February 2011, after a five-month pilot test (September 2010–January 2011) of the new sample design, The Nielsen Company became the new data provider and now conducts the CCS. Accounting for differences in sample design and weighting, the resulting levels and over-the-month changes had a limited effect on most series. On average, the national level of the CCI increased by about 4.5 points over the five months, which is primarily attributable to the use of the age variable in post-stratification weighting.
November 2010 was chosen as the transition month to minimize any impact from noneconomic causes. The transition effect of changing the survey provider for the national CCI series is an increase of 3.5 points for the aggregate index for that month. The graph and tables on pages 4–7 show the comparisons between the originally published levels in November 2010 and restated values for November 2010, December 2010, and January 2011 (preliminary). The historical series before November 2010 has not been revised and can still be compared with the restated index values published beginning with November 2010.
In contrast, the underlying series for "planned purchases" (autos, homes, and major appliances) and “vacation intentions” showed larger increases in November 2010 levels, primarily due to sample design differences. These level shifts will be treated as breaks, and there will be no historical revisions. Neither series is included in or has any impact on the Consumer Confidence Index.
The switch to the Census X-12 seasonal adjustment program produced only minor differences for both levels and month-to-month changes. As a result, The Conference Board did not find it necessary to undertake a full historical revision of the CCI time series based on the seasonal adjustment method. The restated data for November 2010, December 2010, and January 2011 (preliminary data) are based on the prior seasonal adjustment method.