Heart+Mind Strategies fielded a series of questions March, 18-19, 2020 via an online survey.

Access the full report here: Download PDF.  Please contact us if you would like access to the crosstabs.

NOTE: Findings based on preliminary data.

All-Consuming Focus

The pandemic is consuming time and attention, impacting the American psyche.

  • 81% of Americans say they are fully engrossed in the news coverage daily+
  • Most people say they are concerned (59%) and worried (51%), but cautious (58%)
  • A majority of those 45+ choose negative emotions when describing how they feel – especially women, while more men have mixed positive and negative emotions

Emotions experienced differ by age/generation, ethnicity, education, income and gender.

  • Get Z highest on confused (28%) and surprised (20%)
  • African American the most confident (21%) and supported (14%)
  • Asian most anxious (46%)
  • Scared highest among $100K+ (41%)
  • More educated you are the more anxious
  • Women are more anxious, cautious, concerned, worried

Similarly, pockets of the country report different levels of anxiety, confusion and hope.

  • Regional – most anxious are those in Pacific (45%) and West North Central (54%) – Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Kansas
  • Regional – most confused in New England (32%)
  • Regional – most hopeful East South Central (41%) – Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
  • Those in states with the most confirmed cases to date are more likely to be scared – nearly 4 in 10 vs. others, otherwise there are no obvious differences.

With all of this focus and the dramatic changes from late last week, we now find 3 in 4 Americans (73%) believe it is a real threat and not blown out of proportion. Gen Z are those most likely to say blown out of proportion at 40% as are those int the Mountain states 40% – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.


It’s A Mental Health Challenge

The biological virus spreading is causing a psychological war people are waging in their own minds every day now due to all of the uncertainty and change impacting daily living. In fact, four in ten (42%) Americans expect the virus will negatively impact their mental health.

The emotions we see pop among those who are expecting a mental health impact tell the story from a human point of view. All of these numbers compare those who expect difficulty with mental health compared with those who do not expect an impact to their mental health.

  • 56% anxious vs. 25% (+31)
  • 68% worried vs. 40% (+28)
  • 63% cautious vs. 38% (+25)
  • 67% concerned vs. 44% (+23)
  • 44% scared vs. 22% (+22)
  • 41% afraid vs. 26% (+15)

The mental health concern is much higher among women. It is also highest with both Gen Z and Gen X, a majority (52%) of those self-employed, and 46% among households in the suburbs. This anxiety builds when people don’t see a way out and expect this to go longer. We see it triggered by worrying about family, relationship with your partner, and your physical health.

The mental health challenge in this crisis is very real. This presents a meaningful pathway in for those brands that can help provide practical/pragmatic support, information and knowledge, and/or distractions.


Trust Is Hard to Come By When It Comes to Reliable Information

Our survey results show that the majority of Americans only trust in the CDC (60%) and WHO (55%). Local health departments are the next most trusted at 49% of Americans.

Interestingly, people tell us they trust TV news (local or national), the government, and the local school district about the same level (just over a third of Americans say they trust these sources).

Trusting your employer in this time of crisis is very much tied to whether you work full-time or part-time. Half (47%) of full-time employees say they trust their employer. But this drops to 29% among those working only part-time.

Only 17% report they trust social media (26% Millennials, 23% Gen X, and 30% in urban centers)  for information. And 23% of households trust the information they get from search results (32% Millennials and 28% Gen X).

To date, half (50%) of Americans say they’re left more confused based upon government -provided information. This sentiment is the highest among Gen Z (59%) and Boomers (56%), part-time workers (66%), and the self-employed (62%). Government’s leadership has been lacking in providing confidence amidst the crisis for some time now. We will be looking to see if and how these measures change in the coming weeks.

We are sending you the full topline of the survey results as a separate attachment. We are working on a deeper analysis in a number of areas that we will publish and get out there to provide more context.


Major Economic Impact Is Seen Now

As a result of the coverage, the macro impact is becoming clear to most people today.

  • Almost everyone expects a negative impact on the economy, both at the US and the global level (both 83%). A clear majority expect a very negative impact to both (55%).
  • We see the same with expected impact on air travel (82% international, 83% domestic). But more believe the impact will be very negative (68% and 60%).


It is Starting to Get Personal

Most Americans are not worried they will get sick. Nearly 7 in 10 (65%) as of Friday do not expect the virus pandemic to negatively impact their own health. However, 80% believe it will negatively impact the health of all other Americans.

But, even if the physical health is not driving a big concern, we are seeing evidence that it is starting to get personal in other ways.

– Most Americans expect a negative impact on their activities (59%), their finances (54), and  their job (51%, 64% of part-time workers).

  • 43% have cancelled eating out and spending time with friends in groups +10 people (47% in most impacted states). Illustrating a potential trigger, 51% of those expecting negative mental health have already cancelled time with friends in group of 10.
  • 42% have cancelled travel out of town (most 65% for vacation – 37% for work). Interestingly, the travel cancellations are self-reporting highest among Gen Z (53%) and Millennials (45%), as well as minority audiences of Hispanics (54%) and Asians (55%). The figure is higher, regionally, at 47% in the states hit the hardest with cases so far.
  • 40% have cancelled entertainment plans (mostly movies 63%, events 47%, and sporting events 37%).

Those cutting back activities at higher rates, generally, are higher education and higher income households and those who live in the most impacted states. Overall, however, Gen Z (46%) and Millennials (54%) report having made the most notable changes compared with 38% of Gen X, 24% of Boomers, and 15% of the Silent Generation. And Hispanics (54%), Asians (51%), those currently employed, and those who are higher educated eport having made notable changes.

People are beginning to feel it hit everyday life. As more companies cut back, reduce salaries, and let people go, the personal impact will become even more real. We will be looking closely at how the underpinning emotional mindset shifts over time.


Missed Time with Family and Friends

The impact of social distancing is hitting time together like never before. Most people do not expect the virus spread to negatively impact their family (69%), but 40% do believe it will negative impact their time with family and friends. As a result, we see find:

  • 29% have cancelled time with family in the last two weeks
  • 40% have reached out more to family and friends, and 40% expect to do even more in the coming weeks
  • 34% have done more personal video calls

People are craving connection. Creative and authentic ways to enhance this in an isolated state will go a long way to filling this void. A great example is what actor Josh Gad is doing in reading stories to parents and their children each night on Twitter. The authentic connection is evident in the way families are gathering “virtually” to catch these “live” story-telling events each night.


Solidarity Coming?

There is evidence of a silver lining in that 42% believe this crisis is bringing the nation closer together. Only 14% believe it will not make a difference and another 32% believe it is creating further division.

The older and more educated you are the more likely you are to believe this is bringing us closer together – 53% of those 65+  and 40% of Gen X, 49% Boomers, 52% Silent. In contrast, youth is seeing this through a lens of division with 47% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials saying it is driving us further apart. Will this turn into a unified sense of solidarity, or a generational divide?

The positive signs are that 20% have already done more to reach out to check on their neighbors this past week. And we do see 28% of Americans feel hopeful and 21% report feeling optimistic. Outreach and interaction to help one another can fuel a unity as in past crises.


Shopping Is Being Curtailed, But Then It is Not In Some Areas

Shopping habits are mixed. Most, 67%, have either cancelled or changed shopping trips and 55% have cut back on planned purchases, mostly apparel, major household goods, and tech/electronics. But 34% say they did more shopping for food in the last week and 26% bought more basic household goods in the last week.

And, more than a third (37%) expect to do more shopping in the next two weeks for apparel, tech, household, and beauty. And 14% claim they will make a big purchase in the next two weeks (home, car, etc.). So, expectations for spend are there – lockdowns, however, will prevent and/or shift this behavior further.

Our data showed that 41% claim to have done more shopping online in the last week than they would typically do. This breaks with 27% doing more online deliver and 21% more online pickup.

Data Source: Heart+Mind Strategies fielded a series of questions 3/18-19/2020 via an online survey. Access the full report here: Download PDF.

Sample: n=1,035 US Adults 18+

Topics: We explored attitudes, feelings, and actions with respect to the COVID-19 crisis. This provides a quick look at the key storylines we uncovered by quickly digging into the data set.