Weekly Consumer Insights: Multiplying Pandemics - June 8


In this week’s Harris Poll Tracker, we gain insights on multiplying pandemics: racial inequality and social media misinformation, as well as details for college and university Fall re-opening.


Pandemic of Racial Inequality Amid COVID - The coronavirus crisis has disproportionately affected black and LatinX populations, who became sick and died as a result of the virus at higher rates than whites, and also lost more jobs. Enter the horrific actions the world saw on May 25 in Minneapolis with the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. In the days since, Americans have come together to unite and show empathy. Will the peaceful protests continue long enough to set off a second wave of the virus?

  • Fear of COVID is fading. Fear of dying from the virus peaked at 56% on April 3 and it has since gone down to 49%. Fear of returning to normal activities dropped 5% over the weekend and now sits at 69%.
  • Economic inequality has hit new homes; the fear of global recession is up three percentage points from 74% to 77% as inequality hits home for more Americans.
  • In 2014, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Harris Poll insights found that 59% of Americans say the black community is discriminated against in the way they are treated by the police. Hard to imagine that percentage doesn’t increase following the May 25 events.

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say racial equality will be an important issue for them personally in the future, however significant gaps exist between races; 63% of African Americans say racial equality is very important compared to 41% of whites.

Class in Session this Fall – College students desire the college experience replicated, meaning social participation, whether in classes, dorms or movement around campus. Gen Z does desire safety, with 53% wanting guaranteed hygienic cleaning of shared spaces; 49% mandatory testing/vaccines for all staff and students and 46% mandatory face masks for all staff/students.

  • The public stands with colleges and universities suspending SAT/ACT test requirements from college applications. Over 8 in 10 (82%) students currently enrolled or applying to college and 66% of the general population support suspending SAT/ACT test requirements through at least 2024. Additionally, 55% of students currently enrolled or applying to college believe test scores should be permanently suspended.

Another Pandemic: Misinformation – With the rise of social media and ease of capturing content quickly and sharing out to the masses, more Americans receive news through social media than mass media. However, Americans are divided in terms of media truth; 53% say people on their feeds are mostly posting misleading information, while 47% say they are mostly posting facts. Misinformation breeds distrust. Be sure to share trustworthy, valuable information that will build confidence in your brand amongst consumers.

  • Support is high (75%) for social media platforms to monitor whether what is said on its platforms is true or false.
  • 64% say social media companies should censor false or misleading information.


Americans are stressed out, anxious, and wondering what’s next amid COVID and being stuck indoors for the good majority of the last 8-10 weeks. African Americans have these same worries and fears, compounded with frustration and exhaustion with new pandemics resurfacing issues that have existed for hundreds of years. The dichotomy existing now of the need to social distance to protect yourself and others AND the need to unite together as one nation amid many pandemics is a vexing conundrum.

Fear amid COVID has decreased and more Americans are venturing outside. Position fishing and boating as family activities for all families. Additionally, lead with empathy, be inclusive and take a stand for what is right. Go beyond showing diversity among your imagery or products; diversify your team, mandate diversity and inclusion training for all staff; educate and encourage continued learning. Actions will speak louder than words.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable with returning to “normal.” This is great news for businesses that rely on person-to-person interaction but work to keep fishing and boating top-of-mind as more activities begin competing for Americans’ time again.

RBFF receives these weekly consumer insights from its partners at Colle McVoy. This study was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 1,965 U.S. adults between May 29-31, 2020.

Stay tuned to the RBFF Blog for additional weekly consumer insights related to COVID-19.