America This Week: Credit Cards Help Gen Z Get By, Being in a Wedding is Too Damn Expensive, The Crypto-Coaster and How Nostalgia Drives Corporate Reputation

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks tip off tomorrow night in the NBA Finals. And just over half (55%) think the Celtics will beat the Mavericks, even though (51%) are cheering for the Mavs. This, according to our America This Week Tracker fielded from May 31st to June 2nd among 2,117 Americans.

Our poll for the Guardian caused quite a stir last week. We found that majorities believe that the S&P, employment, and stock market are all tanking (they’re not). It reached Bill Mahr and The Daily Show desk here (coverage begins at 20:28).

We have four polls of interest this week

  1. There’s a growing generation gap in how younger and older Americans use credit cards. 
  2. It’s wedding season, and bridesmaids and groomsmen tell us the costs are insane.
  3. Crypto’s been on a roller-coaster, but you can lessen anxiety by understanding its role in diversifying your portfolio. 
  4. Mattel, Sony, GE, and UPS are a few iconic firms whose reputations rose, partly due to the power of their nostalgia.

A Tale of Two Credit Realities: Nerd Wallet-Harris Poll

What’s in your wallet? The better question is, why? One revealing generation gap in America is that older Americans tend to use credit as a strategy for racking up points, while youth use it just to get by; we find in our latest survey with NerdWallet:

  • On one end of the spectrum, (44%) of Boomers use credit cards to accumulate rewards or cash back, while (22%) of Gen Z and Millennials use a credit card to pay for necessities (e.g., groceries, bills, etc.) in the last year because they didn’t have the cash on hand:

  • Over one in five (27%) carry a monthly balance on at least one credit card.
  • But one-third (33%) feel better about their ability to manage their debt now than they did a year ago.
  • Credit for necessities: (12%) anticipate using their credit card, and (8%) Buy Now, Pay Later services for necessities in the coming year – with more Gen Z/Millennials anticipating using BNPL to cover necessities (11%, 14% v. Gen X: 6%, Boomer: 2%).
  • Over half of Gen Z (58%) and Millennials (57%) have been charged a late fee in the past year (v. Gen X: 32%, Boomers: 13%).

Takeaway: “How we use credit says a lot about our overall household financial health,” says NerdWallet credit cards expert Sara Rathner. “At one end of the spectrum, someone could be paying off their monthly credit card balances and racking up rewards points to use on a vacation. On the other hand, someone is signing up to buy now and pay later for their weekly groceries.”

Wedding Season Woes: Fast Company-Harris Poll

As any younger American knows, attending a wedding is a bank-account-draining commitment at this time of year. But with destination weddings and influencer-aspiring nuptials, a new Harris Poll with Fast Company reveals the growing demands placed on wedding party attendees.

  • Heavy expectations: Nearly two-thirds (65%) feel the expectations put on wedding party members are becoming out of hand, with (75%) noting that weddings these days are more about parties rather than marriage.
  • Increased financial burden: (87%) feel that wedding expenses are “ridiculous” these days and wish it was less expensive to be in a wedding party (79%).

  • The amount spent seems to have only increased over time: Those who have been to a wedding in the past five years report spending an average of $2,795 per wedding, compared to $1,157 for those who participated more than 10 years ago.

Takeaway: Hey, please elope! But seriously, while no one wants to ruin a couple’s big day with talk of wedding expenses. Yet these findings suggest that growing financial burdens (especially in an inflationary environment) can imprint memories of financial anxiety instead of the flower toss.

The Crypto Dichotomy: AdAge-Harris Poll

Considering cryptocurrency’s recent history, investing could easily be visualized as riding a roller coaster, according to Harris Poll co-CEO Will Johnson in his latest op-ed for AdAge.

  • Background: In 2023, crypto was marred by scandal, bankruptcy, fraud, and regulatory squabbling. Yet this year, cryptocurrency prices are climbing for Bitcoin (up 66% for the year), while Ethereum is also trending back up.
  • There remains a perception gap: (83%) of Americans see cryptocurrency as a risky investment, and (62%) think it’s a fad.
  • Curiosity is part of the American DNA, however: (51%) believe cryptocurrency is a good way to diversify an investment portfolio.
  • They would if they could: Roughly 1 in 3 cryptocurrency non-investors (32%) say they don’t invest because they don’t understand it, while (27%) don’t because they don’t know how to invest.
  • Cryptocurrency’s biggest boosters: Among people familiar with crypto, Gen Z and Millennials have invested (53%, 59%), as well as people of color (52%) and men (49%).

Takeaway: The theme running through our findings is the relationship between understanding cryptocurrency and investing in it, writes Johnson. The fear of risk can be mitigated, provided the underlying mechanics are digestible. But digital currency is literally and figuratively hard to grasp and that ignorance gap remains cryptocurrency’s biggest barrier.

Americans Think Highly Of Throwback Companies: Axios Harris Poll 100

According to this year’s Axios Harris Poll 100, Americans rank many corporate reputations highly according to the power of their nostalgia.

  • Sony and Mattel, each with iconic status in American culture, were highly ranked in the 2024 Axios and Harris Poll on corporate reputation.
  • Sony ranked #4 of 100 for the second consecutive year, and Mattel ranked #25, behind UPS and General Electric – both with “very good” RQ scores.
  • Mattel made the list for the first time thanks in part to “Barbie” which was the highest-grossing film of 2023, earning more than $1.45 billion in the U.S., becoming a sociocultural moment. While Sony’s PlayStation Plus cloud service features classic games to play on the PS4 and PS5.

Takeaway: Society, particularly Gen Z, is relishing analog technology and returning to the roots of many experiences sidelined by the smartphone. CDs and vinyls, landline phones, and “dumbphones” have increased in popularity.

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from May 31st to June 2nd, among a nationally representative sample of 2,117 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 May 31st to June 2nd, among a nationally representative sample of 2,117 U.S. adults.


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