A huge number of Americans see omicron as a threat, but they’re still less stressed than a year ago

Coronavirus cases may be cresting, but inflation isn't. Here's how American consumers are dealing with it all.

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends and Foresight Lab
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Meet the new year, (so far) same as worse than the old year. We are getting Rick-rolled by COVID-19. Every time we think we’re coming out of it, the virus be like “Never gonna give you up, never gonna say goodbye.” In our last Tracker Dispatch a mere month ago, we were talking about hope and optimism. Now… well, the best news is that the unprecedented million+ case/day wave might already be cresting. You know what’s not cresting yet? Inflation. Beyond that, it seemed a good time to revisit some trending questions about stress, school disruptions and dive into the challenge of quantifying what this has cost us, personally.

Here’s what we know today from the Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer Tracker:

  • 35% say that the virus is a high threat to them personally and only 28% say it’s a low threat. We haven’t seen a split that negative since before the vaccine was widely available.
  • The IPAC is back to a 70/30 split of coping vs. improving, again numbers we haven’t seen in almost a year.
  • 38% say concern has grown over the past month, despite boosters and the vaccine rolling out to everyone over age 5.
  • Roughly the same (high) percent of people report that prices for most goods are going up as in last wave, but slightly more people report paying more for produce.
  • Based on experience with the pandemic, 58% say they are more focused on the present, compared to 42% who say they are more focused on the future.

Read on for data about: Stress, schools, dreams deferred, inflation and faith.

threat level

Dreams deferred

Why we asked: As more and more anticipated 2022 events seemed are postponed yet again or canceled outright, we wondered if we could quantify some of the impact COVID-19 has had on our lives and milestones.

What we found: About two-thirds of Americans had some major event canceled or postponed in 2021. 37% called off a vacation, 34% put off a large family gathering, 10% deferred a wedding they planned to attend – and a sad 6% of 18- to 34-year-olds canceled or put off their own wedding. Four in ten have already lost something for 2022. I would count among the 20% who have called off a vacation and the 10% who have had a concert postponed or canceled.

Outlook for 2022

Why we asked: You might remember that we asked this in early December, before all Hell omicron really broke loose and 2022 was seeming like an improvement COVID-wise. Given the actual start to 2022 I wondered if our collective mood as a nation was souring, or, frankly, it was just me.

What we found: It was just me. Overall there is almost zero change from when we asked this a month ago. We remain hopeful that 2022 will be a better year than 2021. But hey, that’s why we ask, right?

Schools

Why we asked: 2022 has brought an amazing new phrase into the already complex lexicon of School Board jargon: “Adaptive pause,” which seems to be a graceful way of saying, “Sometimes the virus is going to get out of hand and we’re going to stop having school in person with little to no warning and stay that way for as long as we want to.” So how are people feeling?

What we found: Half of parents say their children have to mask at school, down from 62% around the start of the school year. 28% say their child has had to quarantine at some point. The number of parents reporting their children are required to test has jumped to almost one in five. When asked how disruptive school has been to parent’s lives, that number has crept back up since October to 58% – but is quite a bit lower than it was early in the 2020 school year, when about three in four parents reported disruptions.

school and parents

Stress

Why we asked: This pandemic is dragging on. Schools are stressed. Hospitals are stressed. Parents are stressed. You’re stressed, right?

What we found: Interestingly, the number who say they are more stressed vs. before the pandemic started NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO has dropped considerably since the last time we asked about a year ago. Now only one in three say yes, compared with nearly half a last January as the vaccine was just starting to roll out. Parents are way more stressed (45%) than non-parents (29%) and are actually the most stresseddemographic we break out.

What are we comfortable doing today?

Why we asked: In the wake of new restrictions and omicron peaking, we wanted to check in on our relative comfort with a host of activities.

What we found: Compared to a month ago, people are generally more comfortable going to work and the grocery store and visiting friends at their houses, although many are also less comfortable. But we are less (and often much less) comfortable going to the gym, outdoor events (that could be weather), dining indoors, flying, riding a bus or subway and taking taxis or rideshares. The “more comfortable” numbers have seen declines since we last asked pre-omicron. In other words more people said they were “more comfortable” then than do now. That’s true even on the grocery store which dropped from 53% to 35% saying “more comfortable.”

retreating again

 

How are we feeling, financially?

Why we asked: Over the past few months many COVID-era supports, including the expanded Child Tax Credit, expired, leaving the most vulnerable without many of the safety nets that had helped keep their bills paid.

What we found: About one in three (35%) say their financial situation is worse than before pandemic, which has ticked up a tad since we asked last a year ago. About one in six (16%) say their economics have improved. Upper income ($100k+) people were twice as likely to say their situation improved compared to those making less than $50,000 a year, almost half of whom said they were worse off now.

You gotta have faith?

Why we asked: Let’s face it, these are times that can test our faith in just about anything, except maybe Tom Brady.

What we found: Since the pandemic, many say their faith increased in their religion/spirituality (39%) themselves (39%) science and medicine (each 36%) their future and the idea that things will work out in the long run (35% and 36% respectively). However, 51% saw their faith in the future of society fall and 57% lost faith in the government.

faith

ICYMI: Here is our coverage from the previous wave’s data

Signals

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

  • Brain implants let man tweet with his mind: Brain-computer interfaces are getting better and better. This allowed a man who was paralyzed and largely unable to communicate to send tweets by thinking them. (via the Mirror)
  • Rethinking Sleep: Scientists have been looking at historical texts referring to a “first sleep” and “second sleep” and are rethinking this whole 8-hours thing. (via CNN)
  • And forget AVs, here come the FOVs: Self-driving cars are so 2020. Now we’re learning that you don’t need an AI to drive if you have a …. Read on to see what the “F” is in F-operated vehicle. (via WashPo)

For complete toplines for all waves, please see the full data and methodology.

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends and Foresight Lab

Society