Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Twelve Charts That Show a Massive Divide in How Americans See the Economy

Checking in on consumer confidence.

In the midst of a heated presidential election campaign, it's clear that America is a nation divided on both personal pocketbook issues and those relating to the national economy.

Democrats more confident about the economy, personal finances, and buying conditions

Some of these differences play out along partisan lines. For instance, Democratic consumer sentiment increased markedly relative to Republican consumer sentiment upon recapturing the White House in 2009, with the gap between the two rising to its highest level on record.

POLIDIV
Source: Bloomberg

Whites more confident than Blacks or Hispanics

Other dividing lines form among demographics, including race, age, education, income, and geography. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which asks respondents about the state of the U.S. economy, their personal finances, and buying conditions, shows confidence is higher among whites than non-whites.

BBGCOMFWHITES
Source: Bloomberg

College-educated Americans much more in favor of government economic policy

While both college-educated and those with a high school education or less have a negative view on the government's economic policy, a yawning gap has opened up, with the better-educated cohort relatively much more positive, according to the University of Michigan's monthly survey.

UMICHEDUGOVT
Source: Bloomberg

Higher education means higher hopes for financial prospects and retirement

Those with a college degree are similarly much more confident that their financial situation will be better in five years than it is now, a continuation of the longer-term trend...

UMICH5YEDU
Source: Bloomberg

...and they're also much more confident that they'll be able to retire in relative comfort.

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Source: Bloomberg

The poor are much more worried about retirement income than the rich

This divergence is particularly acute by income brackets. The share of people in the top one-third of income who believe they'll receive enough to live on in retirement is near all-time highs. The same metric is approaching its lowest level for the bottom third of income earners.

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Source: Bloomberg

Older people have a particularly bad view of the economy from media reports

For those who are older now, however, news has given them a much gloomier impression of how the U.S. economy has fared.

UMICHNEWSOLD
Source: Bloomberg

Older Americans consistently more negative on their potential for financial betterment

This downcast view also manifests itself as relative pessimism on whether or not their financial situation will improve over the next five years.

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Source: Bloomberg

Breadth of improvement among lower-income households is on the rise

While a larger share of the middle and top ends of the income spectrum continue to report an improving financial situation relative to one year ago, the bottom third has closed the gap in recent readings.

UMICHTHIRDSBetter
Source: Bloomberg

Sentiment is starting to turn up in the South

Regionally, there are signs that the South is in the midst of a trough, with respondents to the University of Michigan survey indicating business conditions had improved over the past twelve months. Other regions have been trending in the opposite direction.

Source: Bloomberg
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Source: Bloomberg

In addition, the expected change in unemployment index is ticking higher in the South (which somewhat counterintuitively suggests a lower perceived risk of a spike in unemployment).

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Source: Bloomberg

Homebuilders, meanwhile, are more confident in the South and West, a testament to the potential for more robust household formation in those regions going forward, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

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Source: Bloomberg
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