Consumer Sentiment is measured by surveys like the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index. Results are based on answers to 50 "core" questions from at least 500 phone calls to survey the lower 48 states.
The intent is to assess consumer attitudes on business climate, personal finance and spending; to promote understanding, to forecast expectations for the national economy; to gauge Consumer's economic expectations and anticipated spending behavior; and to numerically gauge Consumer's optimism/pessimism... so Industry and Government have some idea what to expect, and can see what hasn't worked thus far!
"Consumers have shifted from being optimistic about the potential impact of monetary and fiscal policies to a sense of despair and pessimism about the role of the government," remarked survey director Richard Curtin.
The Consumer Sentiment Index has only been lower three other times: In April and May 1980 an era of Stagflation-- and November 2008 when the current Stagflation era began.
It seems the Congressional-Presidential debacle over how much and how high to raise the debt ceiling was on the minds of people. It was raised by up to 25%.
Daily consumer sentiment -now, today-- seemed to give hope that FED Chairman, Ben Bernanke would pull a rabbit from a hat somehow saving the economy from its current sideways crawl or downward spiral, depending on who one talks to.
If Bernanke had that card up his sleeve, would he not have already played it? Perhaps he already had.
Misdirection is what magicians use to accomplish their illusions. Movers and shakers know to get consumer sentiment focused on something with the "currency of buzz"; something "fresh and newsy"... which diverts their attention from the reality: It's a misdirected fiction; not a fix.
Without jobs, a Consumer Economy is a frame... which has no picture.