We draw your attention away from the Electoral College to put this contest into the context of our nation’s emotions and outlook. In The Harris Poll COVID-19 Tracker (Week 36) fielded October 26th – 28th, 2020, we continue to take the pulse on the American mindset amid the coronavirus, the 2020 election and outlook on the future. 

As a public service, our team has curated key insights to help leaders navigate COVID-19. Full survey results, tables, and weekly summaries can be accessed for free at The Harris Poll COVID-19 Portal. We will continue to actively field on a regular cadence to track the shifts in sentiment and behaviors as the news and guidelines evolve. 

National Fear Rises Amid Tense Election

Beneath the Division and Anxiety Is a Nation that is Reflecting and Giving Thanks

  • Amid one of the most trying times in our country with the pandemic and a divisive election, Americans are feeling appreciative (71%), thankful (67%), and compassionate (67%). Moreso than those who feel angry (51%) and annoyed (28%).
  • Looking ahead to Thanksgiving, Americans are planning to put politics aside and focus on what matters; Americans plan to cope with potentially heated political debates over their Thanksgiving meal by agreeing not to talk politics at the dinner tables (39%) and changing the subject (35%) – cheers to that! 
  • What’s more, is that this reflection of gratitude seems to be spurring fundamental value shifts: (76%) say they will continue to support charities due to the pandemic in the future, (69%) have an increased appreciation of the outdoors ever since lockdowns ended, and (43%) say they will stay more connected to friends and family after the pandemic

It’s COVID and the Economy, Stupid

As American voters headed to the polls (and drop-off locations) these past few weeks, two interconnected issues were at the top of every mind: COVID and the economy.

  • Americans voted with their wallet because we still aren’t out of the COVID recovery yet: just over half (52%) of Americans still fear losing their job due to COVID-19 and (72%) still fear a global recession. 
  • How did Americans weigh the economy vs COVID? The New York Times dives into the (very early) exit polls and concludes: “The coronavirus dominated voters’ thinking, but those concerned about rising infections sided with Joseph R. Biden Jr. while those who wanted the economy open went for President Trump.”
  • But restarting the economy means re-opening businesses, something which states are forced to restrict due to COVID and something Americans are still quite wary about even after reports of the virus flattening: only (39%) say they will go out to dinner in the next 30 days of the virus flattening, less than a third (28%) say they will go to a gym class and only a quarter (25%) say they would go to the movies. 
  • There is a ripple effect on supporting industries: The slowdown of one industry says, business commuting, impacts all other supporting industries, in fact, our study with TriNet found six in ten SMB leaders (60%) have had to reduce their workforce in some way.
  • And Americans are worried about their communities: nearly two-thirds (63%) say small businesses in their community are doing poorly and the same number (65%) say businesses in their community will eventually return to their normal, pre-pandemic levels. And half (50%) say a small business has had to close permanently in their community because of the pandemic.

Takeaway: Either Biden or Trump will face an economy in shambles, a pessimistic public (54% would get a vaccine right away, down from 69% in early August and on average Americans are saying it will be at least 6 months to return to normal activity once the virus flattens) and uncertainty on the horizon for months to come (about one-quarter of the public says it will be a year or longer before they go to a sporting event, attend a large social gathering, take public transportation, or stay in a hotel.)  

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from October 29 to 31, 2020 among a nationally representative sample of 1,954 US. adults.

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John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from October 29 to 31, 2020 among a nationally representative sample of 1,954 US. adults.


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