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First quarter Massachusetts Consumer Sentiment Index jumps to new high for the last year

BOSTON—The MassINC Polling Group Index of Consumer Sentiment rose to 78.4 in January – up from 59.6 in October of 2011. The Index, a quarterly composite of five questions about current and future economic conditions, showed the largest improvement in consumers’ perceptions of near term business conditions and anticipated improvements for the overall economy (see attached Trend Monitor).

“More residents are starting to see their economic future as something to look forward to, rather than something to dread,” said Steve Koczela, President of the MassINC Polling Group. “There is still a ways to go, but the numbers this quarter show a substantial improvement.”

This quarter, 40 percent said they expected good economic times for the country as a whole, compared to 45 percent who see bad times ahead, nearly identical to perceptions of near term business conditions. While these ratios are still tilted slightly negative, they represent a major improvement from the 22 percent who anticipated good times when asked the same two questions in October.

At the personal level, consumers are also beginning to see their own financial situations in a more positive light, with 31 percent saying they expect improvement in personal finances in the year ahead, compared to 13 percent who say the next year will be worse. This improvement may benefit Massachusetts retailers, as more residents say this is a good time to purchase appliances and other big ticket items. About half (49 percent) now call it a good time to buy, compared to 35 percent who said the same in October.

Contributing to the brightening mood, the S&P 500 posted a larger percentage gain in January than in any year since 1997, and state unemployment rates are declining.

MassINC Polling Group Index of Consumer Sentiment

About the Poll: The MassPulse Quarterly Poll is conducted quarterly among representative samples of 500 Massachusetts residents age 18 and older. The poll is conducted in English and Spanish among both cell phone and landline households. This iteration of the survey was conducted from October January 25-29, 2012. The margin of sampling error is 4.4%.

About the MassINC Polling Group: The MassINC Polling Group (MPG) is an independent, non-partisan organization providing public opinion research and analysis to public, private, and social sector clients. MPG is a full service opinion polling operation offering strategic consultation, a wide-ranging suite of analytical products, and high-level communication and outreach planning. For more information visit