TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Consumer confidence hit a five-year, post-recession high in Florida this month, and researchers said Tuesday that the upcoming Nov. 6 election likely was a factor.
The index, based on a survey conducted by the University of Florida, is up three points in September to 79 on a scale of 2 to 150. Its benchmark was 100 points in 1966.
Supporters of Democratic President Barack Obama are much more optimistic than those backing Republican challenger Mitt Romney, said Chris McCarty, director of survey research for the university's Bureau of Economic and Business Research on the Gainesville campus.
At least one Romney supporter, though, is upbeat about the economy. Republican Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement that the survey is "more good news and evidence that our state is moving in the right direction."
McCarty said political ideology could become an even more crucial factor for consumer confidence in October as the election draws even closer.
"Whether Floridians react negatively or positively remains to be seen, but it will largely determine consumer confidence as we get close to the holiday shopping season," McCarty said.
He said the Oct. 3 presidential debate on domestic policy could cause confidence to decline again. That's because the candidates likely will be questioned about what's been termed a "fiscal cliff" facing the nation in January if Congress fails to renew temporary tax cuts and allows automatic spending reductions to go into effect.
September's index is the highest since October 2007.
"At that time confidence was on its way down as the housing crisis was getting under way," McCarty said. "This month's index comes at a time when the economy is still in recovery."
Florida is facing several economic drags, including job losses in government and construction that helped keep the state's unemployment rate unchanged at 8.8 percent in August.
But there's also reason for optimism. That includes rises in housing prices and the stock market.
The university surveyed 419 people representing a demographic cross-section of Florida from Sept. 12 through Sept. 20.
The survey showed increases in all five components used to compile the index. That includes whether Floridians think they are better off than they were a year ago.
Other components are the expectation their personal finances will improve in the next year, overall faith in the U.S. economy over the next year and the next five years and the belief that now is a good time to buy big-ticket items such as cars and appliances.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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