Pandemic perceptions wave 2 – shifting consumer perspectives during COVID-19

Northbound continues to grapple with a changing world. To see how our fellow Americans’ feelings evolve with the situation, we’ve been conducting an ongoing study. Are they optimistic or pessimistic? Do they feel united or scared? Have we put our health above our wealth? We recently conducted the second of what will be several monthly surveys of US consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey was run among all American households, at a 95% confidence level, with our first wave running April 4th-7th, and the second wave running May 1st-3rd.

From the first to the second wave of this research, we’ve captured how perceptions, attitudes and feelings have started to change over time, and we remain heartened by the things Americans have in common – despite a wide variety in our points of view.

Below we’ve outlined some detailed insights from our research. Some of the biggest changes we’ve seen so far include an increase in optimism, a continued unity behind health and safety, and a movement towards disagreement over the economy. If you’d like a full report, feel free to request it here. And if you’d like to be part of a detailed, virtual discussion on these trends and what they mean for brands in the time of COVID-19, sign up here to participate on Thursday, May 28.

Are things getting better or worse? We are split

In April, when we asked Americans if they felt things were getting better or worse, 75% said “worse” and 25% said “better.” One month later it’s equally split between these Pessimists and Optimists. These two groups vary significantly between their demographics and what they expect from brands. To see a detailed breakdown, you can request a full report here.

While we’re still united behind health and safety, we’re moving towards disagreement over the economy

80% of all Americans believe the health and safety of our society is the most important thing right now. This is equally true among all different age, income, and geographic groups. However, these same people are beginning to disagree over the economy. While most Americans agree economic sacrifice is necessary right now, we’re starting to see a rise in those who disagree or are neutral. We also see a slight increase in people neutral about whether companies should promote social distancing no matter the toll on the economy.

While we want others to spend, we’re still watching our dollars

From April to May, 22% fewer Americans believe others should limit their nonessential spending. This means that 66% of Americans say they are cutting back their spending, but only 46% believe others should limit theirs.

Despite concerns, we’re beginning to feel a sense of clarity

In the face of fear and isolation, Americans are finding strength by focusing on what’s most important to each of them. In fact, from April to May, 23% more Americans feel we can finally focus on the important things in life. That means that even though 43% of us agree fear and isolation are causing irreversible damage, 53% of us agree we can focus on the important things.

We continue to stand together for health and community, and we still expect companies to be purposeful members of society, too.

In May, 64% of Americans feel it’s in their power to improve the situation for those around them. 79% agree that now is the time to follow the advice of health and government officials, and 66% believe they share a social responsibility to help small businesses. These numbers are similar to April, showing that Americans are still standing together in this time of crisis. They expect companies to do so as well.

At a high level, Americans want companies to make them feel safe and informed, and the things they expect from them reflect an increasing desire to start up the economy. More and more, they want companies to implement safety measures, lower prices, and improve delivery services.

Although nobody knows how this chapter in history will end, we do know that our current realities are shifting daily. We will take another dip into consumer opinion in June using the same methodology and survey questions to gauge any longitudinal changes or trends. 

Sign up here to participate in a virtual discussion on these trends. And finally, if you’d like a full report on our wave 2 survey insights, feel free to request here.

Stay tuned and stay well.



Adam Shigem | Senior Strategist

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