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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The economic blues will not keep consumers from hitting the road this summer.
According to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, more than one in five consumers, including 40 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds, say they will drive more over the next 30 days. This is a full 5 percentage points higher than in June 2013 and the highest percentage measured since NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, initiated its consumer survey in January 2013.
Overall, 39 percent of consumers say they are optimistic about the economy, a drop from 44 percent just two months prior. Despite falling gas prices and better weather across much of the country, consumer optimism is at its lowest level of this year.
In addition, consumers aged 35 to 49 are the most optimistic, bucking a trend in which younger consumers aged 18 to 34 have been the most optimistic.
"Consumers aren't letting their concerns about the economy affect their summer travel plans," said Jeff Lenard, NACS' vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "But while they will be traveling more this summer, it remains to be seen for businesses whether they will be spending more or if they will be more budget conscious."
The survey also found that 88 percent of consumers say gas prices affect their feelings about the economy, but gas prices have decreased nearly 2 cents per gallon over the past month.
In addition to declining gas prices, consumers are also reporting that their vehicles are more fuel efficient. Consumers say their purchasing power at the pump is better. Self-reported miles per dollar, which examines both prices and efficiency, increased 4.9 percent in June to 6.63 miles per dollar, according to NACS.
The NACS Consumer Fuels Survey is conducted 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 this month's survey, 1,110 gas consumers were surveyed online June 2-4.