America This Week: Spending Despite The Fear, Boomers Feel Aged Out, The Line At The Doctor’s Office and a New (But Avoidable) Public Health Crisis.

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

In February, the U.S. added 275,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.9%, signaling hope that interest rates would be cut later this year. This morning, a new FORTUNE Deloitte CEO survey shows buoyed boardroom optimism. Yet in our America This Week poll, conducted March 15th to 17th among 2,016 Americans, nearly half (49%) are still concerned about losing their jobs (only down 1%-pt from October). Leaders may see a soft landing, but will their workforce believe it?

This week we have four new stories: First, Americans report record high financial insecurity yet still spend. Also, Boomers suddenly feel their age in the workplace. Third, new Harris research shows that American patients grade their access to their doctor’s office a “D-.” Lastly, we detail the lack of public awareness that might be a factor in rising rates of colorectal cancer among young people.

American Financial Worries Hit Twelve-Year High. Yet They Keep Spending: Northwestern Mutual-Harris Poll

According to a new Harris Poll with Northwestern Mutual in Bloomberg, American financial insecurity is at its highest point in at least a decade.

  • One-third (33%) of Americans say they don’t feel financially secure, up from (27%) in 2023, the highest measure going back to 2012. And over half (54%) predict a recession this year (down from 66% in 2023).
  • Yet six in ten (59%) say they’ll spend the same amount or more this year on restaurants, vacations, and entertainment.
  • Another worrying sign: Less than half (45%) would consider themselves “disciplined financial planners,” down from (65%) in 2020.

Takeaway: “Despite the growing economy, Americans have had to endure one financial disruption after another over the last several years, and it’s hard to feel positive when you don’t know what’s around the corner,” said Christian Mitchell, the company’s Chief Customer Officer. “My main concern is those with YOLO dreams colliding into a recession reality.”

The Boomer Conundrum: American Staffing Association-Harris Poll

Is there a generation war brewing at the office? Our previous polling found that older workers scoffed that Gen Z had no idea how to interact with their coworkers. A new survey with The American Staffing Association in Newsweek shows that Baby Boomers now worry that their age is a liability in the workplace.

  • Two-thirds (68%) of Baby Boomers worry that their age now puts them at a disadvantage when finding a new job, higher than their younger colleagues (Gen X: 53%, Millennials: 29%, Gen Z: 48%).
  • The fear of ageism on asking for a raise: Only (42%) of employed Boomers plan to ask for a raise in 2024 compared to two-thirds of Gen Z/Millennials (66% and 67%).
  • Staying put: Only one-fifth (21%) of Boomers plan to search for a new job this year (v. Gen Z: 69%, Millennials: 50%).
  • Backed into a corner when needed the most? Our data with Express Employment Professionals showed that (47%) of employees have been left learning how to do a job on their own after a transfer of knowledge from older colleagues fails to happen – a “brain drain.”

Takeaway: “There’s a prevailing stereotype that Boomers are less adaptable and slower to embrace new technologies,” says HR consultant Bryan Driscoll. Yet, “the reality is that Boomers often bring a level of strategic thinking, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills that are irreplaceable and can significantly enhance a company’s performance.”

The Line Is Out The Door At The Doctor’s Office: PAN Foundation-Harris Poll

In 2022, the CVS Health-Harris Poll National Health Project found the health worker shortage was getting real for Americans. Today, the lack of access is even worse, according to our new patient poll with the PAN Foundation.

  • The ability to access treatment through their healthcare plans earned a “D-” across all patients, the lowest overall grade across five categories.
  • LGBTQIA+ (77%), Native American or Pacific Islander (76%), and Hispanic (61%) patients were more likely to experience logistical challenges accessing needed healthcare (v. non-LGTBQIA+: 47%, white: 45%).
  • It isn’t always better once seen: Over one-third (38 percent) of patients reported feeling that some aspects of their identity – such as their race/ethnicity, age, gender identity, income, etc. – negatively impacted their ability to get the best possible healthcare.

Takeaway: “We know disparities in healthcare are rooted in racism, bias, structural inequities, social and economic disadvantages, and inefficiencies in the healthcare system,” says Amy Niles, Chief Mission Officer at the PAN Foundation. “To bring about needed change, key stakeholders need to shape an action-oriented policy agenda that chips away at these deep systemic flaws and expands access to affordable, equitable care.”

The Screening Crisis: Guardant Health-Harris Poll

Rates of colorectal cancer have been rising among young people in the U.S., yet our research with Guardant Health in Fierce Pharma shows many are not being screened early enough.

  • Background: The CDC recommends screening all people at “average” risk by age 45, but around 50 million eligible Americans are not current with recommended screenings.
  • Almost a third (30%) of screening-eligible Americans are aware they are not up to date, while (26%) mistakenly think they are up to date despite never being screened.
  • Perceptions of “standard” screening methods create barriers: Among individuals who have not been screened, the perception that preparation for a colonoscopy is unpleasant was the most common barrier cited (47%), followed by concern around discomfort or pain during a colonoscopy (42%) or fear and anxiety around the screening process (35%).
  • A blood test might be the fix to close screening gaps: (90%) of eligible Americans would be more likely to stay updated with screening if there were a blood test option.
  • Similarly, primary care providers (97%) and gastroenterologists (91%) agree that their patients would be more likely to stay up to date with screening if they had the option of a blood test.

Takeaway: “Although existing screening methods are effective when completed, there still are challenges around access and equity, especially among minority and other underserved communities. It is particularly alarming that almost a third of Americans are aware they are behind in screening, indicating an urgent need to spur them to action,” said Michael Sapienza, chief executive officer of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “Providing options is necessary to increase the number of eligible adults receiving routine lifesaving screening for colorectal cancer, which is among the most treatable types of cancer when found early.”

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from March 15th to 17th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,016 U.S. adults.

John Gerzema headshot

John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from March 15th to 17th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,016 U.S. adults.


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