IBM survey: Spending expected to be up over Memorial Day weekend

Armonk, N.Y. -- Survey results released Thursday by IBM said that Americans are increasingly upbeat about their plans for the Memorial Day weekend, with a huge increase this year in the amount of people talking about traveling and spending compared to last year.

According to the IBM Social Sentiment Index, the "Desire Ratio" – the proportion of positive versus negative comments about shopping – increased by a factor of five for this Memorial Day compared with last year.

The IBM Social Sentiment Index, which measures social media communications, showed a 46% increase in the amount of conversations about Memorial Day travel compared with 2011. This signal suggests travel providers and transportation officials could see a boost in demand and traffic during the holiday weekend, according to IBM.

The Index also showed a large increase in social chatter about flying, with mentions jumping 65% compared with last year, while references to driving increased 13%.

Surprisingly, sentiment on the topic of gas prices, which have only recently gone down from their highest prices of the year, is considerably more positive than last year, with a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative mentions in 2012 compared to a 1 to 1 ratio in 2011.

IBM said these combined trends may indicate that people are feeling better this year about their finances going into the Memorial Day holiday.

Retailers also could see a jump in consumer spending over the holiday. The Index, which looked at online conversations from Jan. 1 to May 16 in 2012 and 2011, reveals an upward trend in positive sentiment toward Memorial Day spending. The ratio of positive to negative comments about shopping and Memorial Day travel – which IBM calls the Desire Ratio -- is 6.5 to 1 this year compared to a ratio of 1.3 to 1 in 2011. During the same period, negative sentiment around the topic of budgets decreased by 50% year over year.

"When analytics are applied to social media conversations, it identifies more than what people are talking about. This is valuable insight into people's preferences and attitudes about a product or a service and helps us understand why people do what they do," said Marty Salfen, IBM general manager, travel & transportation.