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2020 Attitudes and Perceptions: US

At least 54% of Americans are somewhat or very optimistic about their life for the rest of 2020, while 34% are pessimistic about life. Americans who expressed feelings of optimism cited financial stability as the main reason for this feeling, while pessimistic Americans reported concerns of finances and the economy. At least 8 in 10 Americans are stressed about the future of the country.

2020 Sentiment

  • In June 2020, YouGov asked almost 20,000 US adults whether they felt optimistic or pessimistic about their life in the latter half of 2020. About 35% of these respondents reported feeling somewhat optimistic, while 23% mentioned that they felt somewhat pessimistic.
  • Only 19% stated that they were very optimistic about their life, with 11% saying that they felt very pessimistic about life for the rest of the year, and 12% mentioning that they did not know.
  • Up to 74% of Republicans reported feeling optimistic about the next few months, compared to 51% of Independents and 49% of Democrats.
  • YouGov conducted the same survey in August 2020 and found that less Americans feel optimistic about their life. Only 30% of Americans surveyed mentioned that they feel somewhat optimistic, while 16% feel very optimistic about their life for the rest of 2020. About 27% feel somewhat pessimistic, while 15% feel very pessimistic.

2020 Sentiment by Demographic

  • The study showed that Americans in the South (48%) and in the West (48%) are more optimistic about life for the rest of 2020 than Americans in other US regions, while those in the Northeast (46%) are the most pessimistic about their life for the rest of the year.
  • Almost 50% of men in the US are optimistic about their life for the rest of 2020, compared to 43% of women.
  • While Americans aged 55 and above (51%) expressed more optimism about their life than other cohorts, those between ages 45 to 54 (47%) and 25 to 34 (46%) are the most pessimistic about their life.
  • Surprisingly, Americans with an annual household income of more than $80,000 (48%) are the most pessimistic, while those earning $40,000 to $80,000 (49%) expressed the most optimism about their life for the rest of the year.
  • YouGov found that feelings of optimism stems from financial stability, while Americans who feel pessimistic about life for the rest of 2020 are concerned about personal finances and/or the economy.

Stress In America

  • Following the George Floyd protests, American Psychological Association released a report in June 2020 on stress among Americans. The report showed that 83% of Americans say the future of the US is a significant source of stress, compared to less than 70% in 2018.
  • Up to 72% of Americans mention that “this is the lowest point in the nation they can remember,” compared to 56% in 2019.
  • Source of Stress
  • The APA study revealed that almost 60% of black Americans say discrimination is a significant source of stress. In comparisonn, only 42% of black Americans cited this issue in May 2020.
  • Exactly 71% of Americans surveyed mention that a significant source of stress is police violence toward minorities.
  • Around 78% say that the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant source of stress. However, the stress Americans feel about the pandemic has reduced over the past few months. Based on the Wave 2 COVID-19 tracker, the stress level was 5.6 in June and 5.9 in May 2020.
  • Government Response to Coronavirus
  • Over 70% of Democrats cite the government response as a source of stress, compared to 68% of Independents and 59% of Republicans.
  • Americans between ages 42 to 55 (75%) are “by far the most likely to say the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant source of stress, compared to 63% of Gen Z adults (18 to 23), 67% of millennials (24 to 41), 62% of boomers (56 to 74) and 56% of older adults (75+).”

State of the Country

  • Regarding how Americans who are registered voters feel about the US, 28% rate how the US is living up to its promise of freedom as “Very Well,” while 35% believe the US is living up to this promise “Somewhat Well.”
  • Almost 30% say the US is doing “Somewhat Well” when it comes to equality, while 27% claim the US is not doing very well in this aspect. Within the next decade, almost half of Americans think the US will handle equality better.State of the USFreedom & Equality
  • Regarding self governance, more than half of the respondents say the US is doing somewhat well or very well in this aspect. In ten years, 32% believe the US will be better at living up to its promise of self governance
  • In terms of living up to the ideal of community, 41% of Americans think the US is doing somewhat well, while 20% think it is doing very well.Self Governance & CommunitySelf Governance & Community In Ten Years

2020 Attitudes and Perceptions: Europe

European consumers remain optimistic about their personal futures, but are more pessimistic about the outlook for their countries. Although confidence in national governments remains high, there is skepticism about the effectiveness of the current European Union, as well as concern about the ongoing threats posed by economic weakness and the coronavirus.

Optimism about the Future

  • Overall, most Europeans (58%) feel optimistic about their personal future, but express some level of pessimism (58%) towards the outlook for their country, per a May 28, 2020 survey by Euopinions.
  • Notably, these latest results show some level of improvement since earlier in the year, according to the European Quality of Life Survey, when only 48% of Europeans expressed a positive viewpoint regarding their futures.
  • However, it appears that European consumers remain less optimistic overall in 2020 than several years prior in 2016, when almost two-thirds reported a hopeful view towards the future.
  • Meanwhile, the current juxtaposition in outlook across Europe varies somewhat by nation, with countries such as France reporting higher levels of pessimism for themselves (61%) and their country (69%), while areas such as the Netherlands report greater positively about their personal (63%) and national (49%) outlook.
Outlook by Country
  • Additionally, while perceptions about the future of each country remain fairly constant by generation, the youth across Europe are meaningfully more positive in their outlook for themselves (63% optimistic for ages 16 to 35) than the elderly (53% optimistic for ages 56 to 70), as further detailed within the following chart.
Outlook by Age
  • Those who are employed, educated and/or enrolled in education are also significantly more likely to have a positive view of the future, both for themselves and their countries, as highlighted below.
Outlook by Demographics

Trust in National Government, Concern with Regional Government

  • Despite this pessimism towards the national outlook, market researchers (e.g., DG Comm, European Council on Foreign Relations) note that European consumers generally trust their local governments, and are looking for more involvement by the European Union going forward.
  • DG Comm completed a June 2020 synthesis of local surveys from 14 EU nations, which revealed that “attitudes towards their governments remain overall positive” in Europe.
  • For example, 75% of German consumers are currently “satisfied with the work of the government,” while 63% of Greek consumers are “overall satisfied with the government’s performance.”
  • However, the residents of many countries including Austria and Denmark have experienced “slight backward movement” in their confidence towards local government, even though overall satisfaction and trust remain high.
  • The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) corroborated these findings, by reporting that while overall trust in national governments remains strong, it has eroded slightly throughout 2020, as depicted within the following chart.
Confidence in Local Gov
EU Performance
EU Future Goals

Concern about the Economy

  • Although European leaders have recently expressed confidence about an economic recovery, local consumers remain concerned about the current recession.
  • This past July 2020, Politico reported that 66% of C-level executives across Europe and other major economies believed that the “European market will make a relatively fast post-pandemic recovery.”
  • However, DG Comm revealed several months earlier in May 2020 that Europeans generally reported “feelings of concern” and “even anxiety and depression” related to the mounting economic recession.
  • The Pew Research Center’s September 2020 survey corroborated these findings about European consumers, by highlighting that “views of the economy have turned sharply negative” during the year.
  • Overall, the majority (67%) of Europeans reported that the economy was doing poorly, and that economic conditions were likely to worsen in the next year (47%).
  • However, these views varied drastically by EU nation, with countries such as Italy, Spain and France expressing the greatest concern about present economic conditions, while the Netherlands and Belgium reported more significant worries about the future.
  • Complete details about the current economic outlook of European consumers are provided within the following charts.
Current Economy
Future Economy

Concern about COVID-19

  • Meanwhile, DG Comm’s analysis European consumers during May and June 2020 revealed that European consumers remain worried about the impacts of the pandemic, and that potential improvements in related sentiment had leveled-off.
  • Specifically, the May 2020 DG Comm analysis highlighted results from IPSOS’ What Worries the World survey, which found that while the coronavirus outbreak remained the “top concern” for European consumers, the level of worry appeared to be “slowly declining.
COVID-19 Concern

2020 Attitudes and Perceptions: Global

While most global citizens, including those in the United States, had neutral-to-high levels of trust in their central/federal government in the Spring of 2020, by the summer, only one-fifth of American adults trusted their federal government. However, most global citizens remain optimistic about the world’s future due to better resource usage, improved communication and collaboration, alternative energy usage, robots and artificial intelligence, electronic automobiles, and swift and reliable connectivity. Furthermore, the top issues that people around the world list as threats that they are concerned about include global climate change, infectious diseases, terrorism, cyber attacks from foreign governments, nuclear weapons, global poverty, etc.

Trust in Government

  • Global trust in government at the central/federal level reached 61% in the Spring of 2020, as reported by the Edelman Trust Barometer. The nations involved in the survey with the highest trust in central/federal government include India (87%), Saudi Arabia (78%), Canada (70%), Germany (67%), South Korea (63%), the United Kingdom (59%), and Mexico (55%).
  • In the United States, merely 20% of people have trust in their federal government, according to a survey from Pew Research that was conducted from July 23 to August 4, 2020. This figure shows a remarkable difference from the Edelman Trust Barometer (May 2020 update), which showed that Americans had much higher trust in the federal government (46%) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 66% of Americans trust their local and state governments.
  • Globally, citizens do not trust their federal/central governments to keep them safe, as only 42% of them believe the institutions safeguard them by assuring the availability of proper treatment and medical supplies in poor areas. The United States’ government has one of the lowest levels of trust on this subject out of the nations involved in the survey, with only 32%. Saudi Arabia, India, and South Korea have the highest levels of trust on this topic with 75%, 68%, and 52% respectively.
  • Also, less than half (47%) of global citizens say that the leader of their national government has performed admirably to satisfy demands caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. However, that figure is slightly higher than those who say the leader of their local government has done an outstanding job responding to the pandemic (45%).
  • To improve or maintain their level of trust in government, 65% of individuals globally say governments must guarantee that medical supplies are crafted in their country, 63% want their government to increase healthcare spending, 58% desire the requirement of health screenings for all citizens both during and after the pandemic, and 48% want them to restrict both international travel and immigration.

Optimism About the Future

  • According to the 2020 Global Optimism Outlook Survey, nearly two-thirds of the 20,000 global participants situated in 23 different nations remain optimistic about the future of the world. About 9 in 10 of those participants think it is up to each individual to improve things.
  • Six things that these respondents commonly listed as helping to make the world a better place and bolstering the future include better resource usage, improved communication and collaboration, alternative energy usage, robots and artificial intelligence, electronic automobiles, and swift and reliable connectivity.
  • People around the world are also optimistic about the fight for improving access to education and knowledge gathering (62%), free trade for all (53%), access to resources (57%), carbon free travel (54%), plastic free oceans (60%), and universal clean energy transportation (56%).
  • More than two-thirds (64%) of the global participants in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in modifications and innovations for the better regarding how individuals treat one another, live, and work. This optimism is highest in Mexico (77%), Canada, (71%), Saudi Arabia (66%), the United Kingdom (66%), Japan (64%), the United States (64%), China (63%), and South Korea (63%).
  • In the United States, optimism for future generations has plummeted, as less than half of the population (42%) thing that the standard of living for their children will be superior to today. This was a drop from 2018 when 57% said the same thing.

Concern About The State of Country/Region/World

  • The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of citizens globally, as indicated by 58% of adults claiming that it has altered their life in some form. Under half (46%) of them state that the pandemic has united their country, including merely 18% of people in the United States.
  • Global climate change is viewed as the greatest threat to the world (70% median average), followed by infectious diseases (69%), terrorism (66%), foreign government led cyber attacks (65%), spread of nuclear weapons (61%), the global economy’s condition (58%), global poverty (53%), enduring conflicts between nations/ethnic groups (48%), and large scale migration (40%).
  • Favorable views toward the United States have slumped in 2020, as revealed by the Pew Research Center, as the perceptions of the U.S. among 11 nations involved in a survey have plummeted between 12 and 27 percentage points compared to 2019. The percentage of positive or favorable views of the U.S. in 2020 among those countries goes as follows: Japan (41%), South Korea (59%), Italy (45%), Australia (33%), France (31%), the United Kingdom (41%), Canada (35%), the Netherlands (30%), Germany (26%), Spain (40%), and Sweden (33%).
  • Meanwhile, about 36% of the global participants in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will not have good results, claiming that it will diminish resources, destroy lives, and further divide society. This viewpoint is most prominent in nations such a France (49%), India (40%), and Germany (40%).
  • Approximately 60% of 18-24 year-olds, 69% of 25-39 year-olds, 72% of 40-54 year-olds, and 71% of those aged 55-70+ are concerned about another COVID-19 out break in their area if stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. Regarding a second wave of the outbreak occurring again in 2020, 67% of 18-24 year-olds, 74% of 25-39 year-olds, 78% of 40-54 year-olds, and 77% of those aged 55-70+. Around 57% of 18-24 year-olds, 69% of 25-39 year-olds, 64% of 40-54 year-olds, and 40% of those aged 55-70+ are concerned about their job security due to COVID-19.

Getting Past 2020

  • Primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, Americans are ready to get past 2020, as they are the most unhappy they have been in almost half a century. Just 14% of them report that they are feeling very happy about 2020, according to a study from the NORC at the University of Chicago, a noticeable 17-point decrease over 2018. Around 25% of Americans report feeling not too happy in 2020.
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