When joy is greater than fear we will have the “social ending” to the pandemic. Yet, politics divides us.
History tells us the end will not be a scientific ending but through the will of people to feel comfortable resuming their normal activities.
As cases decrease and mandates vanish, our new research shows the lingering and unintended consequences of the language of covid, the unrelenting reporting of covid, and the shutdown policies which all negatively impacted consumers' psyches and readiness to return back to normal activities.
Today, 27% of Americans are still “Anxious/Very Anxious” and it’s no revelation that it’s highly differentiated by political affiliation.
Covid-19 became political very quickly. At times, it seemed unavoidable to get sucked into the vortex of polarizing topics from shutdowns, to masking and vaccines. These polarizing political attitudes remain even today and are unfortunately negatively impacted consumers’ re-entry into the economy and the social end of the pandemic. With that, on the heels of the State of the Union address, we decided it was time to share data by political affiliation for perspective as businesses still grapple with how to unlock the remaining pent-up demand.
Democrats’ covid anxiety remains high and unchanged vs a year ago
Our February data shows that more than three-quarters of Republicans are venturing out engaging in normal activities vs just over half of Democrats. Democrats are 3 times more likely to be “Very Anxious” vs. Republicans (21% and 6% respectively)
The unfortunate insight is that among Democrats there has been no decrease in anxiousness over the past year. There are the same number of Democrats that are “Anxious/Very Anxious” today as there were a year ago and the same holds true for the “First Out the Door” group.
The silver lining is that the “Wait and See” group decreased and “Out there Taking It Slow” segment increased.
We also analyzed 27 different attitudes to identify the biggest attitudinal differences. Today, Democrats are still clearly more attuned to covid safety protocols for themselves like wearing masks and getting boosted. In fact, Democrats are twice as likely to be wearing masks vs Republicans. Democrats are also more likely to be watching others and be concerned with waning safety protocols and pulling back on restaurant behavior with spiking cases.
% Agree/Strongly Agree
80% will still wear masks after mandates are lifted
79% wear masks every time I go out
75% worry that safety protocols have slipped over time
64% seriously reconsidering and reassessing what’s important in my life as a result of the pandemic
60% Feel better about getting boosted
54% Due to covid, using delivery/take-out more vs. dining out
It is also no surprise that Republican attitudes differ from Democrats. Republicans are much more likely to want to move beyond covid and are less trusting of the experts and the news. Republicans are two times more likely to report being back to their normal activities vs Democrats. agree with statements of personal choice
% Agree/Strongly Agree
73% we have to move beyond Covid and get back to living our lives
69% losing trust in the expert’s ability to understand and predict covid
66% Don't trust the news reports on COVID-19 cases. They are not telling the full story
62% Whether I’m vaccinated or not, I don’t think people should be required to show proof of vaccination to enter businesses
60% Burned out from all the news about Covid-19. I don’t pay much attention anymore
40% Fully back to all my normal activities
Why does it matter? Covid’s end now comes from within
We have to move beyond fear and not let it or politics get in the way of finding joy in our lives. Fear blocks our ability to function, clouds our thinking, and can paralyze us, our choices, and our behaviors.
As business owners, leading with joy and reassuring with safety remains a critical insight to get to the “social ending” of the pandemic.
#1: Unlocking The Remaining Pent-up Demand: Those that are anxious/very anxious are significantly less likely to have returned to normal activities. It's not about "coming back" to old behaviors, brands need to re-introduce consumers to why they offer a joyful, quality experience. It has to be "worth it'' for them to venture out.
#2. Creating a Value Proposition that's "worth it" When prices continue to rise, yet the experience is eroding, consumers today are saying it's just not "worth it". Without a joyful, quality experience, it will become a race to commoditization with brands losing their differentiation and becoming substitutable. Companies cannot and will not win on functional only experiences.
Survey data was collected the week ending February 21, 2022, by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a representative sample of 1005 adults 18 years and older.
Click here to learn more about this thought-provoking initiative "Gearing Up For The Consumer Re-entry & The The Journey Back to Joy"