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New York, NY, 04/27/2021

Optimism is on the rise -- but 57% will be cautious about going back out

Roughly one year after COVID-19 transformed almost every aspect of life, some US consumers are daring to feel optimistic about their health, finances, and careers. But 57% also report that they will be cautious about going back out into the world – more than double the proportion who say they “can’t wait” to get out and do the things they have been missing.

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In the latest installment of GfK’s Consumer Pulse research – tracking people’s evolving reactions to the pandemic – Americans report that, compared to a year ago, they are substantially less worried about the health of the people around them, the loss of personal freedoms, and the impact of a weak economy on their households. (See Table 1.)

Table 1: Areas of reduced concern vs. 1 year ago

Area of Reduced Concern

March 2020

March 2021

The health of people around me

53%

39%

The impact on the economy of my household

37%

21%

Limitation of personal freedoms, especially travel

31%

24%

 

In addition, of those who experienced a change in work situation due to the pandemic, 28% say their reduction of work hours has ended and they have returned to full time.

More than half will return slowly

But 57% of Americans also say they are going to be cautious about going back out into the world – compared to just 21% who can’t wait to get out and do the things they have been missing. Surprisingly, those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are more likely to say they will be careful, compared to those who have not received the vaccine (64% vs. 55%).  

In addition, 49% of those who have not been vaccinated report that they are “living normally” – as they did before the pandemic – compared to 61% of vaccinated Americans. Among those who say they are living normally now, 42% of the non-vaccinated report that they have been doing so throughout the pandemic, while 53% of vaccinated consumers only began living that way within the past two months.

Looking forward to more friends and family, fewer protocols

Vaccinated and non-vaccinated consumers also differ to some degree on the activities they are looking forward to resuming. While both groups placed visiting friends and family at the top of their lists, it was a more decisive winner among vaccinated people; for the non-vaccinated, not having to wear a mask ranked a close second, and not having to socially distance came in third. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. Activities Americans are looking forward to resuming – vaccinated vs. unvaccinated

 

Total

Vaccinated

Not Vaccinated

Able to visit family/friends without risk

25%

32%

23%

Not have to wear a mask in public places

16%

9%

18%

Not have to remain socially distant from others

10%

5%

11%

Will feel comfortable eating indoors at restaurants, etc.

8%

8%

8%

Will travel by airplane

8%

13%

6%

I will return to work in person

4%

5%

4%

 

Vaccination increases activity

GfK also found that Americans in the 26 to 35 age group who are vaccinated are more likely than other age groups to be increasing visits to the homes of family and friends, supermarkets/grocery stores, and other locations. (See Table 3.)

Table 3. Vaccination & increased activities – 26-to-35 age group vs. total

 

Average
(Total vaccinated pop.)

26 to 35
years old (Vaccinated)

Family & friends

38%

53%

Outdoor markets

32%

53%

Supermarkets/grocery stores

35%

52%

Garden centers

33%

52%

Restaurants

38%

51%

To be read: 53% of US consumers ages 26 to 35 say they have made more visits to family
and friends since receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

Many will emerge transformed

Many people also reported that they have had a variety of new, potentially life-changing experiences during the pandemic, from gaining or losing weight to remodeling their homes. Gen Z and younger Millennials were more likely than consumers in general to engage in several types of personal improvement over the past year. (See Table 4.)

Table 4. New experiences during the pandemic – Total population vs. 16-to-35 age group

 

Total

16 to 35 years old

Started cooking new recipes

24%

26%

Gained weight

20%

23%

Lost weight

17%

20%

Started a new hobby

15%

24%

Did a home renovation/home improvement projects

14%

14%

Learned a new skill

13%

21%

Changed hair color/style

12%

17%

Established fitness program

10%

14%

Bought or sold a home

6%

7%

Broke up with a significant other/partner

5%

9%

Moved to a less populated area

5%

7%

Gave up work to care for a child family/member

4%

6%

Moved in with a significant other/partner

4%

6%

“Despite having their whole worlds turned upside down in the last year, young people managed to do what young people always do, which is experiment with new things,” said Stacy Bereck, Managing Director of Consumer Insights and Sales Effectiveness for GfK North America. “A sizable group will emerge post-pandemic with new skills or hobbies or with a change in personal appearance. This is just one, very specific way that COVID-19 has transformed consumers’ lives and behavior in ways that may never be undone – and that are essential for brands and marketers to understand.”

The survey was conducted March 15th to 24th among 1,021 US consumers ages 18 to 65.



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