Why The American Dream May Be Another Casualty Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

As life during COVID-19 pandemic extends beyond its first half-year, economic anxiety in America unsurprisingly remains prevalent. For example, half of adults described themselves as “more worried about my personal finances than ever before," according to a survey I conducted with QuestionPro Consumer Pulse.

The survey polled 1,032 U.S. adults from June 30-July 1, and found Americans' concerns are more nuanced and more multi-dimensional than simple anxiety about personal self-interest. Two-thirds feel the country is on the wrong track (a figure that rises as high as 80% in other surveys).

But even this often-quoted metric -- a favorite of pollsters -- doesn’t capture the complexity, or the profundity, of American anxieties today. Consider that:

  • 67% agree, “The Founding Fathers would be very disappointed in the condition of America today”

  • 66% agree, “The American Dream has become very difficult for most people to achieve”

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    53% agree, “I am more worried about the American Dream than ever before”

Only one in three now believe in a fundamental tenet of the American Dream -- that “young people today will be better off than their parents’ generation.”

Social concerns are obviously running deep. But for aspects of life that are closer to home -- like their personal life or mental/spiritual health -- people remain surprisingly optimistic. It’s a pattern my colleague Vivek Bhaskaran, CEO of QuestionPro, calls “bifocal” optimism.

This reflects the resiliency of the American spirit -- despite a diffuse pessimism about the country as a whole, people still see with clarity optimistic outcomes for the “up close” elements of their life.

Data about lifestyles and spending patterns during "The Corona Economy" also reveals nuanced patterns.

Spending projections suggest that we are gearing up for an extended run of “life@home.”

The two marketplace categories with the strongest growth indicators are groceries and household supplies, both reflecting a hunker/bunker mentality and a newfound willingness of consumers to buy these categories online (in fact, 48% of consumers say they have bought products and services online during the COVID-19 pandemic that they haven’t bought online before, with groceries by far topping the list).

The only other category to show solid growth indications is streaming media, another obvious life-at-home staple. When asked what they are doing more of, watching more streaming media and TV top the list, followed by cooking and browsing social media.

The monotony of life at home is highlighting our deep hunger for connections, experiences and variety.

The list of what consumers miss the most is topped by in-person time with family and friends (88% miss it), followed closely by eating in restaurants (85%) and traveling (81%).

Restaurants and vacations were mainstays of the “experiences over things” trend that characterized much of the past decade, and although near-term projections show minimal spending in these categories, both show evidence of significant pent-up demand.

Taken as a whole, the survey reflects the paradoxes -- and opportunities -- of The Corona Economy.

People are optimistic about their personal lives, but troubled by the state of the nation. They are buying more staples online in preparation for more life-at-home, but craving variety and experience.

The opportunity lies in the balancing act -- tapping into the aspirations while assuaging the anxieties.  

2 comments about "Why The American Dream May Be Another Casualty Of The Coronavirus Pandemic".
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  1. Tom Tyler from GCTVTexas, September 10, 2020 at 5:36 p.m.

    The covid panic is about to come to an abrupt end. Online providers need to be preparing for this.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, September 10, 2020 at 6:45 p.m.

    Stephen, I think you would find similar sentiments in most Western countries.

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