Consumer Confidence Survey

What does the survey comprise?

Purpose

The Consumer confidence survey aims to provide topical information on consumers' opinions about economic developments in general and the financial situation of their own personal households. Consumers' ideas about, for instance, the purchase of consumer durables are reflected in the survey. The survey also identifies short-term changes in optimism or pessimism which provide an early sign of a trend shift in private consumption.

Target population

Dutch consumers.

Statistical unit

Private households.

Year survey started

1972.

Frequency

Monthly.

Publication strategy

The figures in this table are definite; the seasonally adjusted figures are provisional in the current year and become definite in January of a new year.

How is the survey conducted?

Survey type

The monthly figures are compiled based on data from a sample survey.

Survey method

In the period 1972-1983 data were collected by means of questionnaires. Using these questionnaires, Dutch private households were interviewed every year in January, May and October. From January 1984 data are collected by means of interviews by telephone (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing, CATI). In the same month the frequency of the survey was stepped up from three to four times annually, i.e. in the months January, April, July and October. From April 1986 one thousand households are interviewed on a monthly basis.

Respondents

The head of the household or his/her partner is interviewed.

Sample size

Over 1,600 households per month.

Checking and correction methods

Statistics Netherlands performs checks for plausibility of incoming data, using background variables of respondents and results for previous periods.

Weighting

The data are not weighted to match population totals. Data are ‘reweighted’ to ensure sequential comparability.

Quality of the results
Accuracy

The Consumer confidence survey is conducted in the first ten working days of the month. The current response is about 60 percent. Respondents have consistently been asked the same questions since the start of the survey in May 1972.

On the basis of the Consumer confidence survey, three consumer indicators are formulated, i.e. consumer confidence, and the component indicators economic climate and willingness to purchase. The indicator on consumer confidence is based on answers to five questions:

  1. Do you think that the general economic situation in our country has improved, deteriorated or remained the same in the past twelve months?
  2. What is your opinion on the general economic situation in the twelve months to come?
  3. In your opinion, has the financial situation of your household improved, deteriorated or remained the same in the past twelve months?
  4. How do you evaluate the financial situation of your own household in the next twelve months?
  5. Do you think it is the right or wrong time to buy expensive items like furniture, a washing machine or a television set?

The respondents can indicate that the situation has improved (the ‘optimists’), deteriorated (the ‘pessimists’), remained unchanged or that they don’t know. The consumer confidence indicator is defined as the average net result of positive and negative answers to the five above questions, expressed as a percentage.

The consumer confidence indicator is based on two component indicators. The calculation method of the component indicators is identical to the method used to calculate the consumer confidence indicator:

  • The indicator of the economic climate (based on the first two questions).
  • The indicator of willingness to purchase (based on the remaining three questions).

The survey also includes questions about consumers’ expectations with respect to unemployment, inflation, saving behaviour and prospective purchases of Dutch households.

Seasonally adjusted consumer confidence
Consumers are traditionally slightly more optimistic in spring and summer than in the rest of the year. The seasonal effect is removed to facilitate comparison between consecutive months. Consumer confidence is based on five underlying series which are directly adjusted for seasonal effects. The consumer confidence index is adjusted according to the indirect method.

Since 2007, the calculation of the correction factors for seasonal patterns is conducted by using the so-called ‘concurrent’ method. This means that correction factors are calculated for the most recent series of uncorrected monthly figures each month. Until 2007, seasonal adjustment of the consumer confidence index was calculated according to the so-called ‘projected’ method: at the beginning of each year correction factors were calculated for the whole year to come. It turned out that the ‘concurrent’ method – the simultaneous calculation of correction factors for seasonal patterns – leads to less extensive revisions of the seasonal adjustment process, because the correction factors reflecting seasonal patterns are updated only once a year.

European definition of Consumer confidence
The European Commission (EC) compiles an indicator based on the results of the Dutch Consumer confidence survey. However, the EC indicator is based on different questions. The EC indicator is entirely based on future expectations, while the indicator used by Statistics Netherlands is also based on the current situation and consumers’ opinions about the past twelve months.

Sequential comparability

Respondents have consistently been asked the same questions since the start of the survey in May 1972. The method of calculation is unchanged and the figures are comparable.

Monthly data are not reweighted, whereas quarterly and annual data are. As non-response causes the monthly number of interviewed households to vary, the weight of the surveys varies accordingly. As a rule, however, the same weight is attributed to each survey in the same quarter or year. In order to achieve this, the separate cases of the surveys concerned are 'weighted retrospectively'.

The categories of the question on where to economise if income were to decrease have been updated and adapted to better fit the Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose adapted to the needs of Harmonized Indices of Consumer Prices (COICOP-HICP).The categories 'Food etc.', 'Clothing etc.' and 'Do not know' are comparable in time.

Data for June 2011 onwards will not be comparable to earlier data. This also means that there are no data for the second quarter of 2011.

Quality strategy

The data are checked for internal consistency and completeness. When necessary, action is taken to verify the data. If the data are correct, the calculation of the indices takes place and the results are verified and validated. The results are validated by staff from a different department than where the figures are compiled.