For a month or so there, the CivicScience Economic Sentiment Index showed that people were more optimistic about the future state of the economy, job market, and the timing of buying a home or something major for their house (or garage). During this time, we observed that tariff concern also trended downwards as economic outlook got rosier. While the ESI started to dip in the last week of October after a month-long streak of more positive gains, October tariff concern still remained flat. Sixty-six percent of American adults are at least ‘somewhat’ concerned about the impact of tariffs on their household expenses, the same as September.

However, on a more granular level (ungrouping ‘very’ and ‘somewhat’ concerned) those who are ‘very’ concerned about tariffs shot up to 31% in October (vs. 27% in September), which aligns more with the ESI’s downward trend as of late in the month.

This shift looks similar, but surely not identical, to the progression of consumers’ concern about being out in public spaces during month eight of the pandemic. Although, more people are ‘very’ concerned about being out during a pandemic overall than they are about international trade policies and tariffs.

While the percentage of people most concerned about tariffs did spike, slightly more people in October reported that they did not notice how tariffs may be impacting their household spending.

So, where were we then? Right back to being more concerned, bearish, and frankly, scared about money and the pandemic? With an election centered around these very issues, we anticipate that tariff concern, and moreover economic consumer sentiment, could really go either way next month.