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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Even with relatively low gas prices, consumers are still having trouble seeing the bright spots in today's economy. Specifically, for the fourth straight month, at least three in five consumers (61 percent) said they are pessimistic about economic prospects, one industry survey found.
According to the latest monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, women feel significantly worse about the economy than men, with 66 percent saying they are pessimistic vs. 56 percent of men.
There are other significant demographic variations. More than one in four consumers aged 50 and higher (26 percent) said they are "very pessimistic," compared to only 11 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34.
The level of pessimism -- or optimism if you prefer to look at the glass as half full -- also differs with geography. Consumers in the South and Northeast are equally "very pessimistic" (23 percent), while only 15 percent of consumers in the Midwest indicate similar feelings.
The national survey of drivers is conducted to measure the effect that gas prices have on consumer sentiment. Once again, consumer pessimism increased as gas prices increased, although both increases were slight, NACS added.
Not only are consumers down on the current economic climate, but they don't see the future as especially bright either. According to the survey, more than half (51 percent) think gas prices will be higher next month. This marks the first time in three months that a majority of consumers feel gas prices will increase.
While consumer pessimism lingers, consumers also say gas prices have to go significantly higher -- and increase more than 60 cents to $3.93 per gallon -- before they would reduce the amount they drive.
"Consumers remain frustrated by a variety of factors and that shows in our survey results. Pessimism has remained stubbornly high for the past four months even though gas prices have dropped 35 cents per gallon over the same timeframe," said NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. "The retailers likely to best capture holiday shopping traffic are those who best acknowledge consumer angst and focus on delivering value to shoppers."
NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing conducts the nationwide survey in partnership with Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC to measure consumer perceptions about gas prices and how they relate to broader economic conditions. For the December survey, 801 gas consumers were surveyed from Dec. 3-5.