photo services
news staff
Marketing & Design
Tips for faculty
Social Networks
PHONE: (734)764-7260
FAX: (734) 764-7084


University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers have been conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) since 1946. Directed since 1976 by U-M economist Richard Curtin, the surveys focus on consumer attitudes and expectations about the U.S. economy. Over their long history, the Surveys have played a unique role in shaping public policies as well as business decisions. Their influence is based on a demonstrated ability to provide an accurate gauge of consumer reactions to changes in the economic environment. One part of the Surveys—the index of consumer expectations—is an official component of the Index of Leading Economic Indicators.

The project combines the traditional longer term goal of scholarly research and scientific advancement with the more immediate and practical goal of assessing potential changes in the macro economy. In addition to assessing the consumer attitudes and expectations, the Surveys serve as an omnibus research vehicle for social scientists, private firms, professional associations, and various branches of the federal government. Telephone interviews are conducted with a national probability sample of approximately 500 individuals each month. In addition to 30 core questions, each monthly survey includes special question modules designed to assess public attitudes about a wide range of topics, including the use of investment accounts, mortgages, credit cards and other types of debt, and the public's understanding of the risks of the various accounts, tax policy, labor force decisions, and organ donations, to name just a few recent topics. Special question modules have also addressed issues in survey methodology, including response rates, the effects of question order, and comparisons of telephone versus internet survey results.

Richard Curtin

Director, Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers

Richard Curtin is a Research Associate Professor and the Director of the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

Professor Curtin's monthly report on consumer confidence is one of the most closely followed economic indicators, with findings from his research widely reported in the international news media. His research is used by businesses and financial institutions, by federal agencies responsible for monetary and fiscal policies, as well as by academic researchers.Data from the Surveys is an official component of the U.S. Index of Leading Economic Indicators.

Through frequent presentations and published articles, Professor Curtin has reported on his research in behavioral economics, including the theory and measurement of expectations, consumer saving and spending behavior, household income and wealth, reactions to changing economic opportunities, and public policy preferences. He has published more than 500 reports on trends in consumer expectations and their implications for changes in consumer spending and saving behavior.

The success of his research has prompted dozens of other countries to implement surveys of consumer confidence patterned after the University of Michigan model.Currently the surveys are being conducted in more than 45 other countries, including nearly all European countries and the majority of the developed and developing Asian economies.During the past five years, Professor Curtin has consulted with scholars and government officials in several countries, helping to establish consumer surveys in China, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Jamaica, Indonesia, Russia and Trinidad.

He is a member of the American Economic Association, the National Association for Business Economics, the Association for Consumer Research, the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology, and a member of the Center for International Research on Economic Tendency Surveys. He is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Business Cycle Measurement and Analysis. Dr. Curtin received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan in 1975.

For more information, see

U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR)

Established in 1948, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) ( is the world's largest academic survey research organizations, and a leader in the development and application of social science methods.

Spanning the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, demographics, economics, anthropology, statistics, public health, business, and medicine, ISR serves as a national laboratory for the social sciences, advancing public understanding of human behavior through empirical research of extraordinary depth and breadth. Among its accomplishments:

ISR founding director Rensis Likert developed the elegant "Likert Scale" for measuring attitudes and opinions, still widely used academic, government and private sector research.

ISR pioneered survey sampling theories and methods that resulted in the sole correct prediction of the 1948 U.S. presidential election and that still form the basis of scientifically valid surveys, market research and public opinion.

ISR fielded the 1954 double-blind experimental trials of the Salk polio vaccine, selecting the national sample of U.S. schoolchildren and showing that the vaccine was both safe and effective.

Today ISR is a leading source of non-partisan, research-based facts, statistics and reports that inform policy-makers and business leaders about trends in family life, adolescent behavior, the American voter, race and ethnic relations, aging and retirement, demographics, and the monthly behavior of American consumers.In addition to the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, ISR conducts the following long-running "legacy" studies:

American National Election Studies, designed to measure the attitudes and behavior of the nation's electorate on a wide range of topics, from assessments of presidential and congressional candidates to opinions about public policy issues such as abortion and health care.

ISR Monitoring the Future Study, conducted since 1975, surveys 50,000 American youth every year on a wide range of attitudes and behaviors, including their use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.

Panel Study of Income Dynamics, conducted since 1968, studies the course and consequences of changes among American families throughout the life-course, providing information on health, family structure, and income, including detailed data on how U.S. children spend their time.

Health and Retirement Study, launched in 1992, conducts interviews every two years with a nationally representative sample of 22,000 Americans age 50 and over, to assess the major trends in health and economic well-being among those preparing for retirement as well as seniors who have already stopped working.

National Survey of American Life, conducted by the ISR Program for Research on Black Americans, this survey assesses the physical, emotional, mental, and economic health of a nationally representative sample of more than 4,000 Black American adults.

World Values Surveys, conducted by social scientists in almost 80 societies on all 6 inhabited continents, this study, which started in 1980, provides a unique view of changing attitudes and values around the world.