Affluent optimism in the U.S. economy ended 2011 by rising for three consecutive months, from 30% in September 2011, to 40% in December 2011. In raw numbers, this rise of 10 percentage points during Q4 reflects roughly 5.9 million more Affluent adults who are optimistic about the economy, their spirits buoyed mostly by perceived improvements in the job market and consumer spending.
The findings come from our monthly online survey that tracks the lives, lifestyles and evolving attitudes of the 58.5 million adults aged 18+ living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income. The uptick in Affluent optimism was also apparent in our December barometer, when we asked participants to take stock of 2011 and express their expectations about 2012. Viewed in retrospect, 2011 was a mixed bag at best …
Looking ahead, 2012 is expected to be better across the board …
Of course, it’s not the first time we’ve seen a “holiday bump” in optimism and expectations. Affluent optimism in the economy jumped from 48% in November 2010 to 57% in December 2010, a substantial leap driven not only by the holiday season, but also by the December 2010 bi-partisan compromise to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits. (Affluents were pleased with the content of the legislation, and pleasantly surprised that Democrats and Republicans could collaborate to get anything accomplished.)
Last year’s holiday bump was more muted – from 36% in November 2011 to 40% in December 2011 – but reflected a continuation of a broader Q4 trend rather than a short-lived spike. In fact, many Affluents make an effort to separate their longer-term economic perspective from short-term holiday euphoria. One respondent expressed his reservations about the economy this way: “Although things seem to be going well during the holiday season, I'm worried what things will look like after the season is over.”
Affluents are looking forward to 2012 with a renewed sense of hope and with full agendas. Eight in ten made resolutions or set specific goals for themselves, with most focused on spending more time with family, saving money, and/or living healthier lifestyles.
For Affluents, the year 2012 has dawned as a time of fragmented expectations. It is a time of new hopes, particularly for themselves and those close to them, and a time of continued but slightly lessened concerns about America and the economy.