Consumer Optimism Up With Gas Prices

Monthly NACS survey finds higher prices, colder weather didn't dampen spirits

Smiling Gas Guy Vintage

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Despite a chilly January, consumers are feeling more optimistic about the economy, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey. The monthly survey measures consumer sentiment as it relates to gasoline prices. The latest survey shows consumers feeling better about economic conditions than any time since last summer.

According to the survey:

  • 43% of consumers say that they are optimistic about the economy, which NACS reported is the highest level of optimism since July 2013. This greater optimism is seen across all regions of the country, even in the Northeast and Midwest, which experienced record-cold temperatures during the Jan. 7 to 9, 2014, polling period.
  • For the past year, at least 83% of consumers polled have said that gasoline prices affect their feelings about the economy. For the January survey, 85% of consumers agreed with this statement.
  • For the third time in the past year of polling, however, an increase in gasoline prices did not lead to a rise in pessimism, or vice versa, NACS reported. In the case of the Jan. 2014 survey, consumers reported increased optimism in a month when gasoline prices rose by about five cents per gallon.
  • More than one-half of consumers (53%) expect that gasoline prices will be the same or lower in the next 30 days. Only 7%--a record low in the history of the survey--said prices will be much higher.

In another sign of consumer optimism, drivers said gasoline prices would have to increase significantly before they would reduce driving. On average, gasoline purchasers said prices would have to hit at least $4.04 per gallon before they would decrease driving, which is 71 cents greater than the current national average, and the second-largest price differential since NACS started measuring this figure in May 2013.

John Eichberger, NACS vice president of government relations, said that consumer sentiment is being defined more by future prospects than current conditions. "While it remains to be seen if conditions do in fact improve, consumer optimism is great news for consumers, retailers and the economy as the new year begins," he said.

Each month, NACS conducts a nationwide survey with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates LLC to measure consumer perceptions about gasoline prices and how they relate to economic conditions. For the Jan. 2014 survey, the team surveyed 1,112 gasoline consumers between Jan. 7 and 9, 2014. During the week of the Jan. 2014 survey, the OPIS weekly national average price for gas was $3.322 per gallon.

For summary results and past surveys, click here.