Lower gas prices unlikely to directly boost holiday spending: Survey

Savings at the pump are unlikely to be turned into gifts beneath the tree, according to CNBC's latest All-America Economic Survey.

The survey found 79 percent of Americans have seen lower prices at the pump in their area relative to last year. But only 8 percent plan to turn that windfall into increased spending.

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Meanwhile, 13 percent in the poll say they will save more, the No. 1 response, and 12 percent will pay down debt with the cash saved on gas.

A gas station attendant fills a customer's vehicle in Turnersville, New Jersey December 4, 2014.
Tom Mihalek | Reuters
A gas station attendant fills a customer's vehicle in Turnersville, New Jersey December 4, 2014.

Many economists have pointed to plunging gas prices as a catalyst for increased holiday spending, and that may yet come to pass. But only 8 percent of shoppers who are spending more on holiday gifts this year cite lower gas prices as the reason, compared with a third who say they are spending more because their incomes are higher.

Read MoreEnergy falling=consumers saving (and spending)

Younger Americans are most likely to save the extra money, with 23 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds putting more money into their savings and 11 percent paying down more debt.

The survey found retirees and seniors are least likely to change their behavior due to lower gas prices. Only 2 percent of respondents in the 65 and older age group plan to spend more because of money saved on gas.

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Americans' outlook for energy prices have been buoyed by the GOP's takeover of the Senate in the November election. Thirty-three percent are more optimistic about the cost of gas, electricity and other energy with Republicans in control of both houses; 25 percent are less optimistic and 32 percent said it did not affect their opinion. Not surprisingly, Republicans were overall more optimistic on the cost of gas,electricity and other energy by 46 percent while Democrats were overall less optimistic by 23 percent under a GOP-controlled Congress.

CNBC's All-America Economic Survey of 803 respondents was conducted Nov. 29 through Dec. 2. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.