America isn't feeling great about 2023

In less than five minutes of reading time, we’ll give you all the data and context you need to get you up to speed on Ipsos’ latest wave of the Coronavirus Consumer Tracker.

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends and Foresight Lab
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Here’s what we know today from the Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer Tracker:

  • Metrics about how we feel about the pandemic – including the IPAC, our threat level and how people are dealing with restrictions on a 5-point scale – are all pretty flat. The average answer to the restrictions question has dropped back to its oft-touched record low of 2.3 – meaning people are feeling less affected by restrictions, lately. Some day, we will finally hit 2.2.
  • Mask-wearing is stable, with 32% saying they wear masks frequently and 43% sayin’, “nah.”
  • More than half of Americans now say they have had COVID at some point, according to our Axios tracker.
  • People’s outlook for their spending is flat, with 29% thinking it will increase and 23% thinking it will decrease.

Read on for data about: Inflation, holiday shopping, and the most important topic of all, QR code menus. 

What do we think about 2023?

Why we asked: Seemed a good time to take everyone’s temperature.

What we found: We are not really optimistic. Like, at all. About anything. Typically, an optimism question is a bit of a pyramid: the closer you get to yourself, the more optimistic you are. As you get further out – my community, my country, the world – optimism trails off. But we’re still generally optimistic.

Last year Ipsos asked if people thought 2022 would be better than 2021, and 71% in the U.S. said yes. If you’re thinking that’s a bad benchmark, when asked about 2020 vs. 2019, even more Americans (79%) had a positive outlook. (Editor’s note, they were wrong.)

Looking at 2023 is a very different story. Only 23% think the year will be good for them personally (rated 8, 9 or 10 out of 10). People are slightly more positive about their job prospects, but basically no one (less than 10%) thinks it will be a good year for gas or housing prices, climate change, crime rates or the federal government. Oof. How will this place out in terms of our overall and consumer confidence? This is a topic we’ll come back to as we get closer to 2023.

Chart showing that few Americans are optimistic about 2023

Cases are flat (granted, at 100,000…) how are we feeling?

Why we asked: With the CDC basically saying, “hey, you’re on your own,” are people still testing when they feel sick?

What we found: Looks like it. We asked a new question about if people have been testing when they feel sick in the last three months and 47% have taken a home test, 27% have gotten a PCR and 65% have isolated. Keep it up, America! Personally, I would have expected bigger splits on this between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated but there wasn’t too much variation in their behaviors.

Chart showing that nearly half of Americans have self-tested in the past three months

Gas prices!

Why we asked: They’re going down! They’re going down! Like a lot!

What we found: 95% of folks had noticed that prices went up. Those numbers are starting, slowly to shift. 10% of folks now say prices have gone down from the start of the year. It’s especially a notable stat because the numbers for all the other goods we asked about are flat.

Chart showing that people are noticing gas prices dropping

Lowered gas prices aren’t affecting our expectations on inflation

Why we asked: So if gas prices, which we all pay attention to, are going down – does that impact our outlook on spending overall?

What we found: Nope. Doesn’t look like it at this point. In fact there was a 6-point jump in people saying that overall prices “will never go back down,” which is now almost a third of Americans.

Chart showing that nearly a third of people think inflationary prices are here to stay

People don’t think they’ll be better off than their parents

Why we asked: We checked in on a question we’ve been asking since early in the pandemic about a broad range of attitudes.

What we found: Overall, there is a lot of consistency in this question compared to previous waves. That said, there’s been a 10-point fall-off in people who think they will be better off than their parents. Looking back to March, 46% agreed. Now it’s just 36%. The dip is on both ends of the age spectrum, with the 18- to 34-year-old and the 55+ cohorts losing a lot of ground. The Gen-Xers in the middle were low to begin with (because of course we were).

Bar chart showing that fewer Americans think they'll be better off than their parents

Experiences are (a little) more popular than stuff

Why we asked: Are we splurging more on experiences or goods?

What we found: Turns out it’s both, in about equal measures, though about half of us aren’t spending over our budget each month. Those who are, are slightly more likely (26%) to say they are spending on experiences like vacations and meals vs. goods they can buy (21%).

Chart showing that younger Americans are split on prioritizing experiences vs. goods

Is it time to do back to school holiday shopping yet?

Why we asked: The emails, they just keep coming.

What we found: We asked two questions, last asked at this time last year. The first is about when people typically start their shopping. The second is about when they plan to this year. As we start our THIRD year of trending pandemic holiday shopping data, about one in ten people have already started their shopping. A similar number will wait until December. One in three will get started in November. And nearly one in five say they don’t do holiday shopping at all. These numbers match pretty closely to when people said they were starting their shopping when asked last year, showing very little impact of inflation on our plans.

Pie chart showing that inflation isn't affecting holiday shopping yet

How do we feel about QR codes in place of menus?

Why we asked: I find these to be useful tabletop conversation starters and have wound up in a discussion about them with everyone I have dined with.

What we found: America is divided. Of those who have used them, most people like that they cut down on paper. 45% would like to see them continue vs. 23% who would not. 48% would like to see us go back to paper menus vs. 18% who would not. (About a third of Americans who have used these QR codes have no opinion. What’s wrong with them???) Note, there’s a definite “OK, Boomer” effect here, as younger Americans are much more likely to want them to continue than older Americans. 

Two charts showing that younger Americans and older Americans are split on QR code menus

Signals (The inadvertent climate change edition)

Here’s what we’re reading this week that has us thinking about the future.

  • California’s Water Cops (via WSJ)
  • We are not freaking out enough about climate change (via Gizmodo)
  • But maybe gene editing can help? (via MIT)
The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends and Foresight Lab