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Conference Board Consumer Confidence and University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Indices

Many different surveys of consumer confidence and sentiment exist. Some research institutions and investment firms have even created their own. The best known and most respected are the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. However, all the various surveys share one characteristic: They ask everyday people from different walks of life easy to answer questions that probe their feelings about the current and future state of the economy, inflation, and their plans for vehicle and home purchases.

The Conference Board’s confidence index is generally released on the last Tuesday of each month and a basic version made available on the Conference Board’s website. A more detailed version and the history is available by subscription directly from the Conference Board.

The University of Michigan usually issues its sentiment index on the second to last Friday of each month, followed by the revised final estimate two weeks later. This survey is available by subscription only.

The differences in the methodologies used by the Conference Board and the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center are small but important enough to produce indices with somewhat divergent characteristics and strengths. Some feel that the larger pool sampled in the NFO survey makes the Conference Board’s indices more significant statistically. They also feel that eliciting expectations for the next six months, as the NFO survey does, is more realistic than the Michigan survey’s five year perspective. On the other hand, the longer history and twice-monthly reporting of the sentiment indices garner favor for the University of Michigan’s report.