COVID-19 Polling: Fall Look-Ahead
Expectations Change as the Pandemic Enters a New Season
The Consumer Brands Association’s latest COVID-19 poll asked 1,308 American adults about their opinions on the coronavirus and its effect on the country. The data shows a country normalized by a persistent threat, but also contending with growing anxiety over what’s ahead. Fall will bring several new factors to the fore — including cooler temperatures, a looming flu season, a murky economic forecast and a pivotal election. What factors will have the greatest impact on American life, however, is an open question.
Concern rose sharply and has stayed high since the pandemic began.
As the reality of the COVID-19 challenge came into focus, the 36% of Americans who described themselves as “very concerned” in mid-March jumped up to a majority quickly after and has yet to dip below 50% since.
While most Americans (72%) are still optimistic about the next six months, that optimism has dipped slightly since June (76%), when some states were first beginning to reopen. The perennial lengthening of the timetable for returning to normal — or what will pass for normal after COVID-19 is over — and the whiplash changes in the news about the virus, whether driven by politics or new information, has undoubtedly whittled down optimism.
- March 11
- June 3
- September 16
- Very Concerned
- Somewhat Concerned
- Not Very Concerned
- Not at All Concerned
Shortages or not, concerns over access to CPG products persist.
While the supply chain has largely solved for shortages of high-demand products like toilet paper, meat and cleaning supplies brought on by panic-buying early in the pandemic, Americans’ fears over access to those products has not.
The Consumer Brands’ survey began as a weekly look at American sentiment around COVID-19 and then increased the time between surveys; however, there is a clear story in the data that shows access concerns to every product type — food and beverage, household cleaning, personal care and over-the-counter medicines — have been ticking up since hitting a low point in the summer. Over-the-counter medicines, specifically, hit its highest point of concern yet in the latest survey, with 66% reporting fears over access to those products. Cleaning products matched the April 15 survey high of 74% concerned about access.
- March 11
- March 18
- March 25
- April 1
- April 8
- April 15
- April 22
- May 6
- June 3
- June 29
- July 27
- September 16
- Access to Household Cleaning Products
- Access to Personal Care Products
- Access to Food and Beverages
- Access to Over-the-Counter Medicines
Growing trust in the industry driven by delivering on consumer needs.
The rise in concern comes at a time when high demand products are readily found on store shelves again and trust in the CPG industry has grown. The first time the question was asked on April 22, 37% of Americans said they had greater trust in the brands that make household cleaning, personal care products and food and beverage staples, in addition to 55% who said their level of trust had stayed the same. As the pandemic continued, trust continued to rise, most recently hitting 47% of Americans who shared having more trust in the industry, in addition to 43% whose trust had remained stable.
The latest survey clarified what CPG brands can do to continue to earn greater trust. The number one option was to ensure the consistent delivery of high demand products. Number two was continuing to treat employees fairly as we navigate the pandemic.
Interestingly, even as economic fears loom large, keeping costs stable was far less important than ensuring availability of high-demand products in driving trust. In fact, it was statistically tied with using brand platforms to speak out on social, political and environmental issues.
- Top Ranked Driver of Trust
- Ensuring Consistent Delivery of High-demand Products
- Treating Employees Fairly
- Keeping Cost of Products the Same
- Using Brand Platform to Speak Out on Social, Political or Environmental Issues
- Giving Back to Communities in Need
- Sharing Information with Consumers
Americans are finding their way forward and changing the way they live and shop.
As the pandemic drags on, across the country, people are slowly resuming routines. When first asked in late June, 32% said they had only considered returning to their normal routine or wouldn’t consider returning to normal until a vaccine or treatment was available. Today, that number stands at 25%. The most frequent answer from respondents was that they were resuming their normal routine with a mask or other protective gear (29%).
The slow return to routine may face further challenges, as the vast majority of Americans anticipate a spike in COVID-19 cases when the weather cools down in the fall and winter. Couple that anticipation with anxiety over people not wearing masks in public places — something 77% of Americans are concerned about — and the coming months can be expected to challenge the country further.
Mask mandates are supported by a majority of Americans in many places. Grocery stores and retail locations like Target and Walmart are toward the top of the list, with nearly seven-in-ten (68%) respondents believing they should be mandated there, behind only hospitals and medical offices (71%) and airports, train and bus stations (69%).
There is, however, a distinct difference in political affiliation on whether or not a mask is necessary. More than a quarter (26%) of right-leaning respondents do not believe masks should be mandated anywhere, compared to only six percent of left-leaning respondents.
The high degree of concern on mask-wearing in the grocery store may contribute to the changed shopping habits of many Americans. While the majority (73%) go to the grocery store themselves and 15% say someone else in their household does the shopping, 12% of Americans have moved to ordering grocery products online for delivery or store pickup. While far from mainstream, those who have moved to online grocery shopping intend to continue it after the pandemic is over. Sixty-four percent of new online grocery shoppers say they will “absolutely” or “likely” continue to do so after COVID-19, added to the nine percent who said they were already using online ordering and would also continue. Only 14% said they would stop using it after the pandemic and 13% said they weren’t sure.
The future is uncertain and the presidential election looms large.
The government’s response to COVID-19 has influenced all American lives over the last six months. Survey respondents were more complimentary of their state’s handling of the pandemic than of the federal government’s: 50% gave their state an A or a B grade for COVID-19 response; 41% gave the federal government the same high marks.
Assessments of handling also show deep political divides. Right-leaning respondents were more favorable of the federal government’s response than left-leaning respondents (56% gave an A or B, compared to 44%, respectively). Further, left-leaning respondents were far more likely to give an F (28%) than right-leaning respondents (10%).
The election will have a profound impact on how continued COVID-19 response is handled, from supply chain continuity to vaccine allocation and distribution to economic reactions. The stakes of the election are clearly affecting how Americans plan to vote, particularly along party lines. While 31% of overall respondents said pandemic response had affected who they are likely to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, 52% of left-leaning respondents said the same, compared to just 18% of right-leaning Americans.
- Grading the State Government
- Grading the Federal Government
About this Survey
Consumer Brands Association conducted a survey of 1,308 American adults (18+) from September 16-21, powered by Toluna.
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