Got those post-election consumer blues?

StatemapredblueElections are all well and good, but do they lead to customer discontent? A report from the University of Michigan says customer satisfaction in the U.S. took a “dramatic downturn” in the fourth quarter of 2004, as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The decline—from an overall score of 74.3 in the third quarter of 2004 to 73.6 in the fourth quarter—is the biggest since 1997, and it follows “two years of steady increases.” The report notes that high gasoline prices hurt consumers’ satisfaction with gas stations, which in turn dragged down the overall index. But we wonder whether another factor was also at work. During presidential-election years, candidates are forever telling us about all the wonderful things we deserve—and how little in taxes we ought to be paying for them. Having been given an inflated sense of our just desserts, might we be more prone to discontent in our role as consumers? Perusing quarterly ACSI data as far back as 1994, when the index was initiated, we found five instances in which the overall score declined by half a point or more from one quarter to the next. All but one of these occurred either during a presidential-election year or in the first quarter of the year immediately following an election. Granted, this doesn’t prove anything, but it’s intriguing. If martial law is declared and presidential elections are canceled, we’ll be curious to see how customer-satisfaction scores hold up.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver