MTSU Survey Shows Tennesseans Regain Some Confidence in Economy


The Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index recovered from an all-time low as shoppers have “regained some of their lost confidence in the economy,” according to a survey by Middle Tennessee State University.

The Overall Outlook Index returned to positivity in September with a score of 44, up from June’s plunge to -13 as the economic ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic became more acute, reports the Office of Consumer Research in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at MTSU.

Consumer Outlook fever chart-Sept2020
This chart shows results of the overall Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index and sub-indices since September 2015. The September 2020 index rose to 44 from -13 in June. The index is measured quarterly. (Courtesy of the MTSU Office of Consumer Research)

“Tennessee consumers have become more upbeat about the current economy, indicating they perceive an economic recovery has begun,” said Tim Graeff, marketing professor and director of the Office of Consumer Research.

“However, this is still a far cry from the score of 212, which was recorded in March of this year, or the score of 254 from December of 2019.”

The Consumer Outlook Index scores are based on consumers’ responses to 11 questions measuring their perceptions of the current economy, the future economy, jobs, personal finances, and whether now is a good time to make large purchases. The index, which includes three subindices, is computed by adding the percentage of favorable responses to each question and subtracting the percentage of negative responses to each question.

Other highlights regarding the subindices include:

  • The Current Situation Index, while still in the negative range, gained to -60 from -93 in June.
  • Views regarding spending have also improved as the Purchasing Situation Index rose to 17 from -8. Expectations for the future have leveled off.
  • The Future Expectations Index remained relatively steady, dipping only slightly to 87 from 89.
  • Although optimism waned in East and West Tennessee, it continued to grow in Middle Tennessee.

“This suggests a budding sense among consumers that while the economy is struggling, it is improving and consumers are becoming more willing to open their wallets and spend money, which can stimulate even further economic growth,” Graeff noted.

The current anonymous online survey of 620 Tennessee consumers was conducted between Sept. 4-14 and has an error margin of 4%. To see the full report and previous reports, go to

For more information, contact Graeff at 615-898-5124 or [email protected]. Or visit