With the presidential election looming and millions of Americans trying to piece their lives back together following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, it's easy to understand why many consumers haven't begun to think seriously about the upcoming winter holidays. But the clock is ticking; Black Friday is just three weeks off. And in the first of our series of annual holiday polls, it appears as if the outcome of Tuesday's election could play a significant role in peoples' outlook and willingness to dig into their wallets.
One-third of American adults surveyed between Oct. 25 and 28 expect to be more cheerful this holiday season than last year. That's the good news. But that joy and optimism could fade quickly depending on the results of the race for president. Hence, the bad news: Thirty-one percent expect this season to be glum if the candidate they support loses. Moreover, 31 percent of respondents expect the election outcome to have at least some effect on their holiday spending; 17 percent indicated that the results will have "a lot" of impact on how much they spend.
Our survey, a nationally representative telephone poll of 1,013 adults age 18 and over, reveals a cautious population still licking its wounds from years of economic woes. Around 30 percent of gift givers said they plan to spend less this season vs. 2011. Only 20 percent intend to increase spending (though that figure is up 5 percentage points from who said so at this time last year).
Whether people spend more or less this year won't hinge as much on who wins the race for the nation's chief executive, but rather by consumers' perception of the state of the economy and gasoline prices - the two most influential factors, according to our survey. Indeed, half of respondents cited gas prices and the economy as the variables most likely to affect spending; 36 percent cited concern about job security.
Nearly 193 million adults plan to participate in the holiday shopping frenzy this year. In 2011, the median amount spend was $514.