America This Week: Gen Z to Congress: “I Want My TikTok!”, What Middle Names Reveal, Fertility Benefits at Work, and VR Gets Real

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

Monday’s Iowa Hawkeyes and LSU Tigers women’s Elite Eight contest was a showdown for the ages, bringing in record ratings for ESPN. The game delivered a record 12.3 million viewers, making it ESPN’s best audience for a college basketball game – men’s or women’s ever. In our America This Week poll, fielded March 29th to 31st among 2,134 Americans, the excitement for women’s basketball is all-encompassing, with (70% of the public and 81% of Millennials) tuning into the women’s tourney saying it’s the most engaged in sports they’ve been in a long time. March Madness, indeed.

This week, we have four new stories: First, with congressional action hanging over TikTok, do politicians dare alienate Gen Z? Next, what does your middle name reveal about you? (A new Harris Poll with The Atlantic explains.) Then, with HR Brew, we examine how fertility benefits could win the talent wars. And finally, we dive into the quantum improvements in virtual reality.

TikTok’s Ban Threatens Brands And Their Gen Z Voters: Ad Age-Harris Poll

TikTok support is strong among Gen Z, the app’s core constituency, as it battles for its existence in the U.S. Our new poll with Ad Age shows how committed they are to the platform.

  • Context: Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill forcing TikTok to divest itself from Chinese-based ByteDance ownership or face being banned in the U.S.
  • According to the March Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll, 18-to-24-year-old voters were the one group that opposed a bill that would potentially ban TikTok in the U.S. (oppose: 57% v. all voters: 34%).
  • And that’s a lot of current and future voters: (64%) of Gen Z report being on TikTok daily, more than any other age group (Millennials: 33%, Gen X: 24%, Boomers: 5%).
  • A ban would be a blow to businesses accessing younger consumers: Three-quarters (75%) of Gen Z believe losing access to TikTok would negatively impact brands (v. 51% of Gen Pop). Similarly,  (76%) of Gen Z believe TikTok advertisements are a good way for brands to reach consumers – as (40%) have shopped on TikTok already.

Takeaway: “The two polls’ findings reflect the generational divide over TikTok and illustrate why brands have relied on the app to reach young consumers. Brands increasingly turn to TikTok for marketing ideas and to address audiences that are harder to find through traditional channels. The polls also demonstrate TikTok’s peril, as public support for the app is unsteady” (Ad Age).

Middle Names Reveal More Than You Think: The Atlantic-Harris Poll

Middle names occupy a strange space in American society. We use them most in bureaucratic contexts, but new research with The Atlantic shows their benignness belies their rich tradition and lineage.

  • Background: In 2011, demographic researchers across America realized census forms had many blank spots: (60%) of people left out the middle names of their extended family members, and nearly (80%) omitted those of non-relative living partners.
  • Our poll found that less than a quarter (22%) of Americans know the middle names of at least half of their friends or acquaintances.
  • Forgetting a middle name means forgetting a piece of history: (43%) of middle names honor a family member, compared with just (27%) of first names.
  • Marie, Ann, Symphony, Hawk, Danger: It’s more than just a name, as Sophie Kihm, the editor-in-chief of the baby-naming site Nameberry, says for some parents, middle names are a creative exercise to achieve poetic rhythm, an artistic metaphor-driven exercise, a personal reflection, or can even reflect what parents would be most drawn to without worry of social scrutiny.

Takeaway: “Middle names can’t telegraph all of who we are. But maybe sharing them feels intimate because they carry a small piece of us. More than a few letters printed on your ID are a window into your family history, your parents’ tastes, and sometimes even their aspirations for who you might become” (The Atlantic).

Can Fertility Benefits Win The War For Talent? HR Brew-Harris Poll

While fertility treatments remain a rare employer benefit, our latest research with HR Brew finds that offering them could attract and retain talent.

  • Only (12%) of employed Americans report that their company offers fertility benefits, up from (6%) in February 2022.
  • Yet nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans say companies should offer fertility benefits to their employees – increasing to (75%) of HR professionals.
  • A competitive benefit: (82%) of HR professionals at companies offering them reported they’ve had “a positive impact on attracting and retaining talent at our company.”
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of HR professionals said fertility benefits would “increase employee loyalty,” with (62%) saying they were trying to convince their company to start offering them.

Takeaway: “The fact that HR leaders are doubling down, rather than backing away from these benefits, suggests companies recognize they’re competitive and important to the employee mindset. While not many employers offer it yet, you see many signals in the market that there’s consideration and thoughtfulness about how to offer it in the future, to signal that they’re kind of a future-ready company that has their values aligned with next generational talent,” said Libby Rodney, our Harris Poll chief strategy officer.

Exiting Reality For Virtual Reality: Ad Age-Harris Poll

According to our co-CEO Will Johnson’s latest article for Ad Age, virtual reality technology is steadily becoming less virtual and more accurate,

  • A fifth (18%) use VR technology, and an additional 1 in 3 (33%) haven’t tried it yet but are interested. Combined, the two groups make up a majority of Americans. Only (27%) have not used it and are not interested in trying it.
  • Play’s the thing: Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those who have used or would like to use VR headsets are motivated by gaming. Around half (51%) have used or want to use it to watch immersive content and (47%) to simulate travel or other real-world experiences.
  • Our annual research with the American Psychological Association found that (36%) of Americans don’t know where to start when managing their stress, and a third (33%) said they feel completely stressed out no matter what they do to manage their stress.
  • VR isn’t just for youth: While VR usage decreases with age (Gen Z uses the tech most), Boomers and Gen X are the most interested in trying it out.

Takeaway: The VR market is already estimated to be worth more than $67 billion. That figure will triple in the next five years, rising to over $204 billion. In other words, it is a ripening market ready to blossom. If marketing to Gen Z, immersive experiences are a must, as our research with Rokt found that half of Gen Z are interested in augmented reality and virtual reality shopping experiences.

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from March 29th to 31st, among a nationally representative sample of 2,134 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 29th to 31st, among a nationally representative sample of 2,134 U.S. adults.


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