The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) has long been what statisticians point to when professing their “stats don’t lie” vision of U.S. elections.
With all the bellyaching over bathroom use and who-marries-whom, voters ultimately care about one thing when it comes to picking their President: the economy.
The bottom line to most American voters is that if economic times are good, their President is a genius; and if economic times are bad, then it’s time to “throw the bum out.”
There is a reason statisticians place so much confidence into Consumer Confidence. With two small exceptions — arguably, three — it has never been wrong in picking the President during the last 47 years (12 total elections).
Economist Outlook put together a handy table showing the patterns from 1968 to 2008, and CNN provided the rest with their update of the 2012 Consumer Confidence number.
It’s worth a look at the history to see how the current election will likely play out in November.
As you can see, ever since the Conference Board started keeping tabs on this number in 1967, it has managed to get almost every election right.
It failed to foresee the election of Richard Nixon in 1968 largely due to the fact that the Democratic party was divided between George Wallace, running as an Independent, and Hubert Humphrey.
Humphrey garnered 42.7 percent of the vote that year, while Wallace took southern Democrats with him (13.5 percent).
It’s likely that had he not run, Humphrey would have beaten Nixon in a landslide.
The Consumer Confidence Index then tore off a string of victories wherein every time the number was 100 or higher, it correctly predicted the fate of the incumbent party.
The one exception happened in 2000 when the CCI number was an impressive 143 — the highest it had ever been in an election year — yet, the incumbent party lost.
Upon closer review, however, the model managed to get the popular vote right, as Al Gore picked up more votes than George W. Bush but failed to win the electoral college.
The model was wrong one other time with the last Presidential election in 2012. Under President Obama, the number was at 72.2 [via CNN] yet he managed to pick up majorities in both the popular vote and electoral college.
Many believe this is because he was able to sell the improvements in Consumer Confidence over his first 4-year term.
Indeed, the number had crashed to 52 when Obama beat John McCain in 2008. As paltry as the 2012 number was, it allowed him to sell a narrative that America was on the right track.
Now, with the latest Consumer Confidence number clocking in at 94.7 (95.4 expected, down from 96.1 since March), things are not looking good for the Democrats, and that’s great news for Donald Trump.
Not only is the CCI not where it needs to be, but it’s trending downward.
MISS: University of Michigan consumer confidence falls to 94.7 (95.4 expected)https://t.co/rLQ3NZro49
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) May 27, 2016
However, it does have 6 months to catch up, so the election is hardly a done deal. But, it’s also worth noting that when Consumer Confidence gets it wrong, it’s usually due to a strange, unforeseen anomaly — a third-party run, a split between popular vote and electoral college, and the fallout of a massive recession.
This year is especially unusual with a brash, sometimes uncouth reality TV star being the chosen nominee of the Republican party and an admitted socialist duking it out with a woman under investigation by the FBI for the Democrats.
In other words, who knows what might happen?
At present, Consumer Confidence clearly favors the Donald. What do you think, readers? Will Donald Trump manage to pull out the victory in November? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Disney, ABC]