More American drivers are feeling optimistic about the U.S. economy, according to the latest Consumer Fuels Survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Nearly 60% of American drivers surveyed this month report a positive outlook, compared to only 44% this time last year. These latest results reflect an overall growth in consumer optimism, which hit an all-time high of 61% in March 2017.
Consumers say that gas prices factor into their optimism; 76% of drivers say gas prices affect their feelings about the economy and 83% of those ages 18 – 34 say gas prices affect their economic sentiment. Drivers this month report a median gas price of $2.35, a small uptick from a median price of $2.33 in April 2017. While gas prices are 15 cents higher this spring than a year ago ($2.20), they remain significantly less than the rises in May 2014 and 2013 ($3.69 and $3.53, respectively).
The petroleum industry’s annual spring transition to summer-blend fuel, which takes place from February – May, looks much different than previous years—at least at the gas pump. Since 2000, prices have increased an average of 53 cents during this transition. But even with the slight price increase this month so far in 2017, prices are essentially unchanged from February.
“High consumer optimism and still relatively low gas prices are welcome news to retailers as we approach the start of the ‘summer-drive’ season in two weeks. These two factors—and the weather—affect summer travel and spending at convenience stores more than anything else,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives.
Regionally, drivers in the South and the West are the most optimistic (65% and 62%, respectively), while just half (50%) of northeastern drivers report feeling optimistic about the state of the economy.
NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells an estimated 80% of the fuel sold in the country, has conducted monthly consumer surveys on economic issues since January 2013.
The survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland (PSB); 1,104 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed May 3 – 5, 2017. Summary results are available at NACSOnline.com/FuelsSurvey.