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Tense Current Events: U.S. Concerns Shift as a Result
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Tense Current Events: U.S. Concerns Shift as a Result

While the third quarter of 2016 saw considerable economic diversity across the markets measured by Nielsen’s Global Survey, consumer confidence in the U.S. remained on solid footing with a score of 106, despite a decline of seven points from the second quarter. More than half of U.S. respondents were confident that personal finances (61%) and immediate-spending intentions (52%) would be good or excellent in the next 12 months, a decline of nine percentage points and six percentage points, respectively, from the second quarter. The positive outlook for jobs also retreated from 56% in the second quarter to 50% in the third quarter.

U.S. respondents also showed a pullback in spending intentions in the third quarter. While intentions to save increased two percentage points to 46%, plans to spend across all lifestyle areas declined, with the biggest quarterly drop of eight percentage points for holidays/vacations (24%), followed by declines of seven percentage points for out-of-home entertainment (20%), six percentage points for home improvements (24%) and four percentage points for new technology (18%).

“Though the U.S. labor market is strong—with employment and wages rising—this is an uncertain time for Americans with the approaching election and continued terrorism concerns,” said Louise Keely, executive vice president, Nielsen. “While consumer confidence has not been severely dented, consumer uncertainty is reflected in the moderate weakening of discretionary spending intentions.”

While the economy remained the biggest or second-biggest concern for 31% of U.S. respondents, it declined three percentage points from the second quarter, as worries about terrorism and political stability increased. More than one-fifth of U.S. respondents (21%) said terrorism was their biggest or second-biggest concern—a rise of four percentage points from the second quarter and the highest percent the country has seen in the seven years the sentiment has been tracked on the survey. With the U.S. presidential election approaching in November, apprehension about the country’s political stability escalated to 18%, rising four percentage points from the second quarter. Other top concerns centered on health (15%), debt (14%) and job security (12%).

In Canada, confidence increased two points to 97 in the second quarter, as all three confidence indicators improved from the previous quarter. More than half of Canadian respondents said personal finances would be good or excellent in the next 12 months (60%), an increase of two percentage points from the second quarter. While favorable job prospect sentiment (44%) and immediate-spending intentions (43%) also increased in the third quarter—rising three percentage points and four percentage points, respectively—they remained at lower levels.

The economy was the biggest or second-biggest concern for 29% of Canadian respondents, representing no change from the second quarter. Canadian respondents also expressed concern about increasing food prices (22% of respondents, down three percentage points from Q2), increasing utility bills (22%, up five points) and debt (18%, down two points). 

Other findings include:

  • Third-quarter global consumer confidence remained stable at 99, an increase of one point from the previous quarter.
  • Concerns about terrorism increased across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific in the third quarter.
  • In Europe, consumer confidence improved in 26 of 34 measured markets compared to the second quarter.
  • Brazil, the largest market measured in the Latin America region, posted its first consumer confidence upswing in two years, rising 10 points to 84 from the second quarter.
  • South Africa posted a solid confidence increase of nine points in the Africa/Middle East region.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Q3 2016 Global Consumer Confidence Report. If you would like more detailed country-level data from this survey, it is available for sale in the Nielsen Store.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted Aug. 10-Sept. 2, 2016, and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 63 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample includes Internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion. The China Consumer Confidence Index is compiled from a separate mixed methodology survey among 3,500 respondents in China. The sub-Saharan African countries in this study are compiled from a separate mobile methodology survey among 1,600 respondents in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Index, was established in 2005.