America This Week: Upskilling Beats A College Degree, Most Will Give Up Social Media Before Chocolate, Our Sad! Financial IQ, How Gen Z Reads The News

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

This week, the UN climate chief, Simon Stiell, warned that the next two years are “essential in saving our planet” and avert far worse climate change. This comes as The NOAA warns this week of an imminent mass bleaching of coral reefs. Currently, two-thirds (64%) of Americans are concerned about climate change in our America This Week poll, fielded April 12th to 14th among 2,071 Americans. Worry has even seeped into our psyches, as our research with TIME finds that over a third of people have dreamed about climate change.

Programming note: Join our CSO, Libby Rodney, and Grammarly’s CMO, Lena Waters, webinar “Deliver Peak Marketing Performance by Cutting Communication Overload” on Thursday, April 18th, at 1 p.m. ET. They’ll discuss how communication death spirals leave little time for workplace inspiration, insight, and creativity. Learn communication practices you can employ today. Save your seat here.

This week, we have four new stories: In a new seventeen-country survey with ETS, people think a college degree will be less important than re/upskilling. And in a choice between the two, chocolate beats social media, according to our data with Mondelez. Next, Americans remain sour on the economy, but the bigger problem is their need for more financial knowledge. And finally, with Axios, new methods exist to reach elusive Gen Z newsreaders.

Upskilling Will Be The New College Degree In 2035: ETS-Harris Poll

The value of a four-year degree is still significant but only gets you so far. In our new “Human Progress” report with ETS in Fortune, (88%) feel the lifetime value of college is eroding as continuous learning becomes essential to success. Yet the cost of reskilling and upskilling remains a huge barrier for most people worldwide.

  • Context: The transformation of the education industry is having far-reaching effects across society. The report sought to understand better the factors that impact building prosperous societies by surveying citizens in seventeen countries.
  • Most respondents (78%) believe that evidence of ongoing skill acquisition will be as valuable as a university degree by 2035.
  • But isn’t isn’t equal: Across the globe, cost is the number one barrier to upskilling and lifelong learning – women, older generations, the unemployed, and those in rural areas report more difficulty accessing upskilling/reskilling opportunities. 
  • The role of AI will only grow: (72%) globally would trust AI-generated guidance for improving skills. Still, a similar number (71%) agree that AI has the potential to (negatively) impact learning assessments due to biases and programming flaws.
  • Check out the full report here.

Takeaway: “People feel that we no longer live in a world where you get your degree, leave education and learning behind, and never look back,” says Michelle Froah, Global Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer at ETS. “Around the world, people are feeling the pressure to learn new skills but face difficulty accessing resources. Across government, education, and business, we need to do more to help people assess where they are, measure their progress, and enable them to thrive.”

Give Me Chocolate Before TikTok: Mondelēz-Harris Poll

Since ancient Olmec and Mayan civilizations discovered and processed cacao over five thousand years ago, chocolate love is still growing, according to our latest State of Snacking report with Mondelēz, featured on Yahoo!

  • When presented with a choice between giving up social media or chocolate for a month, (57%) of the global population surveyed and (65%) of North American consumers said they’d give up social media over chocolate.
  • Chocolate is a vital part of our diets: Over (80%) of global consumers eat chocolate monthly, and more than (50%) eat chocolate weekly.
  • It’s more than just a simple treat: (82%) say chocolate is good for the soul, and (73%) believe chocolate can turn an ordinary moment into an extraordinary one.”

Takeaway: “Serotonin and dopamine are among the most important ‘feel good’ compounds associated with joy, serenity, and pleasure in our bodies. So, when we bite into our favorite brand of chocolate or suck down a chocolate milkshake, we get a rush of dopamine and serotonin that results in blissful feelings of euphoria (Yahoo!).”

Financial Anxiety Soars: National Foundation For Credit Counseling-Harris Poll

Our latest research with the National Foundation For Credit Counseling found that Americans aren’t feeling the positive effects of the larger economy on their finances.

  • Nearly one-third of Americans (32%) are just getting by financially, and (62%) fear government instability will harm their finances in the next twelve months.
  • There is no trickle-down effect: (61%) feel most improvements in the U.S. don’t benefit people like them.
  • At least one-quarter of Americans are concerned that their money won’t last (39%) or feel they will never have the things they want because of their financial situation (24%).
  • Their financial education is also struggling: Fewer Americans today give themselves an A or B when considering their personal finance knowledge (53% vs 57% in 2023).

Takeaway: “This year’s survey once again confirms what we already know: there is a significant need for financial education and counseling. Many Americans are struggling financially and lack the confidence to plan for the future,” said Mike Croxson, CEO of the NFCC. “Financial education empowers people to make informed financial decisions and overcome challenges that hinder their long-term goals.”

Finding Those Hard-to-Reach Young Newsreaders: Axios-Harris Poll

According to a new Harris Poll with Axios, young people aren’t consuming news through traditional channels, so you must engage them in new ways, from visual communications, subject matter experts, or trusted influencers across social, digital, and audio platforms.

  • By the numbers: Three-fourths of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X use social media to find news, compared to only (44%) of baby boomers.
  • The most popular platforms for news gathering among Gen Z include Instagram (71%), YouTube (69%), TikTok (65%), and Facebook (51%).
  • Only (44%) of Gen Z report consuming news on X and LinkedIn (22%).
  • Younger audiences are also more likely to follow specific journalists than news organizations.
  • Previous Harris Poll research found (that 65%) of Gen Z reduced their news consumption to protect their mental health and wellness.

Takeaway: “Owned and social platforms remain super important for building a following, but you need traditional media to keep the momentum and give you credibility in certain circles,” says Emily Blair Marcus, CEO and Founder of PR firm Emily Blair Media (EBM). “At the end of the day, young audiences won’t see most of the coverage unless it’s included in a TikTok or listed in your Instagram bio.”

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from April 12th to 14th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,071 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 April 12th to 14th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,071 U.S. adults.


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