In The Harris Poll Tracker (Week 93) fielded December 3rd to 5th, 2021 among 2,042 U.S. adults, we look how young Americans are ready for the metaverse, at the public’s outlook on Omicron, what The Great Resignation will bring in 2022, how retailers can reach Gen Z and Millennial women, and what Chicagoans think on public safety in their city.

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.

– John Gerzema & Will Johnson

1. Meta Youth: Young Americans Are Ready for the Metaverse

  • Young Americans, 40 and under, are leading us into the metaverse: 7 in 10 (70%) Gen Z and Millennials are interested in interacting within the metaverse (vs 32% over 40) – and they are most likely to understand the idea of what it entails (64% under 40 v. 27% over 40).
  • Brand experiences are among top 3 reasons that young Americans want to explore the metaverse: Driving interest are social interaction and virtual meetups (83%), playing virtual games (85%), and visiting virtual stores and brand experiences (81%).  
  • Millennials are interested in scratching their travel and shopping itch virtually: Close to 9 in 10 Millennials interested express desire of ‘visiting new worlds or visiting sites around the world (e.g., Eiffel Tower)’ (86%) and “purchasing clothes, art and similar goods” (87%).
  • Young Americans interested in the metaverse are turning to the metaverse to actualize their real-estate desires (74%), led by (77%) of Millennials who are the most likely to be contemplating buying virtual real estate, 
  • Millennials are more bullish on the future of the Metaverse than Gen Z: Close to half of Millennials (48%) believe “the metaverse is the next big thing and will become part of our lives in the next decade,” while only (38%) of Gen Z are this bullish.

Takeaway: The metaverse may become the most over-hyped term in the next year, but there are plenty of signals that it isn’t just another bubble that marketers experienced in the early aughts. With the success of companies like Roblox, young Americans often care more about their virtual identity than their physical. And as a way of escaping pandemic life, we may have an equation for a new third place that can thrive.

2. Fear of Omicron Heats Up Ahead of the Holidays

According to our weekly polling, public awareness of the new Omicron variant has increased 14 percentage points from (64%) last week to (78%) today, and many are concerned for what it may bring. Here are the latest updates:

  • Move over, Delta: Of those familiar with Omicron, seven-in-ten (70%) are more worried about it than Delta, and concern is greater among younger generations (Gen Z: 81% and Millennials: 77% vs. Gen X: 67%, Boomers: 65%). 
  • While three-quarters (75%) of those vaccinated are more worried about Omicron, only half (50%) of those unvaccinated feel the same – and (22%) are much less worried. 
  • Americans don’t see Omicron as being overhyped: (72%) of those aware are concerned that it could be more contagious and severe as well as evade vaccines than other variants (Vaccinated: 76%, Unvaccinated: 53%). 
  • Masks are back: While (35%) of Americans say they already practice strict COVID health measures, over half (56%) plan resume precautions such as wearing masks indoors and social distancing again (30%), avoiding high-risk places like sporting events and concerts (27%), getting a booster (25%), and limiting their indoor activities like shopping and going to the gym (22%). 
  • As of this Monday, the U.S. began requiring all international travelers to provide proof of a negative test within a day of their flight – a policy that (38%) believe is the most or second most important of eight measures in managing the pandemic and preventing any new variants from entering. 

Takeaway: Although there are still a lot of unknowns with the Omicron variant, public concern about its potential health and economic impacts are high — a fear we know all too well; our polling indicates disruption ahead for holiday travel, shopping and gatherings.

3. Employers Beware – 23% of American Workers Are Planning to Quit in the Next 12 Months: CareerArc-Harris Poll

If employers were hoping 2022 would make it easier for them to find staff, our latest survey in partnership with CareerArc, will put a damper on that. As covered by Fast Company, the data suggests that The Great Resignation is only about to heat up. Let’s take a look:

  • NYE Resignations: Close to a quarter (23%) of employed Americans plan to quit their jobs in the next 12 months – with (70%) looking to quit before February 2022 and (36%) planning to quit before the new year. 
  • Among those wanting to quit within the next year, close to six-in-ten (59%) either already are or will begin job searching between now and February. However, one-in-ten (11%) plan to quit and have no plans of looking for a new job
  • The top three reasons for quitting are wanting better working conditions (32%), feeling burnt out (30%), and desiring higher pay (29%). 
  • As for who is quitting, younger employees (ages 18-34) are more than twice as likely as older employees (ages 35-64) to say they plan to resign from their jobs in the next 12 months (34% vs. 15%).

Takeaway: According to Jim Bramante, Chairman and CEO at CareerArc, “Companies need to get serious about building a strong employer brand to support their recruitment and retention strategy. Employer authenticity, action, and brand reputation have never been more critical and organizations that act quickly have an immense opportunity to get an ‘unfair’ share of top talent as part of The Great Rehire.”  

4. What Retailers Should Give Millennial and Gen Z Women for the Holidays: Ad Age-Harris Poll

In our latest survey in partnership with Ad Age, we found that women – particularly Millennials and Gen Z – are bringing new priorities and expectations to the sales counter. With more than four-in-ten (44%) Gen Z and Millennial women ready to shop to make up for missed time, retailers should take notice. Here’s what we found:

  • Spending with intention: More than 7 in 10 Gen Z and Millennial women are trying to shop at local businesses more often, and (39%) of Gen Z and (43%) of Millennials say they want to spend their money with companies that support small businesses. 
  • Further, more than 2 in 5 women under 40 want to buy from companies that use a percentage of their profits to help local communities
  • Ready to shop elsewhere: Women are standing up for employees, as (47%) of Gen Z of (44%) of Millennial women say that they will not support retailers that make their employees work on holidays. 
  • Nearly 2 in 5 women under 40 say they’re looking forward to shopping with friends and family again, while another one-third say that they look forward to pairing shopping with another fun activity.
  • Lean into in-person experiences: Friendly sales experts (29%) and food and beverage offerings (29%) were the leading ways to appeal to women consumers as online bots and algorithms can’t replace human interaction after all.

Takeaway: Women are thinking of their communities more, both in terms of local businesses and the people who work in stores; they are ready to escape COVID’s gloomy shadow; and most importantly, they want to enjoy themselves. 

5. Reframing Public Safety Reform to Find Common Ground: MacArthur Foundation-Harris Poll

The Harris Poll teamed up with the MacArthur Foundation to see how Chicagoans’ perspective on public safety in their city has changed since we first checked in in March 2021. Here’s what else we found:

  • Chicagoans continue to perceive a decline in local race relations: (78%) disagree that race relations in their city are good right now, and (71%) disagree that race relations have improved. Nearly two-thirds (63%) say race-related issues are systemic in nature. 
  • Residents report high levels of concern about the personal safety of marginalized communities such as the homeless (85%), residents of color (83%), and those with mental or behavioral health conditions (87%).
  • Further, more than half (57%) report gun violence is the most important problem in Chicago (up from 50% in the spring), and background checks (65%), higher penalties for gun-related crimes (64%), and police presence in areas with high gun violence (58%) are desired by those who believe gun violence needs to be reduced (Spring: 63%, 60%, and 55%, respectively). 
  • While (60%) of residents disagree that funding for the Chicago Police Department is too high, (73%) say there should be more funding for non-policing alternatives (e.g., social workers on police force) and sensitivity training for all officers (56%).
  • Yet, in police encounters, more people of all demographics report negative experiences (23% of all residents, 37% of people of color) or being racially profiled (33% of residents of color).

Takeaway: Attitudes towards solutions addressing these issues are nuanced and divided along racial, socioeconomic, and generation lines as well as lived experiences. Even so, Chicagoans still desire changes to the laws, systems, and organizations that contribute to and help prevent the violent crime plaguing the city.

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from December 3 to 5, among a nationally representative sample of 2,042 U.S. adults.

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John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from December 3 to 5, among a nationally representative sample of 2,042 U.S. adults.


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