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COVID-19 Consumer Sentiments & Behaviors

Numerator’s monthly Consumer Behavior & Sentiment Study provides ongoing insights to help brands better understand COVID-19’s impact on consumer behavior and how consumers plan to navigate new normals in COVID and Post-COVID times. Check back each month to learn more about how consumers are feeling, what they're comfortable doing, and when they expect to return to normal behaviors and activities. Additionally, get insights into emerging consumer concerns like the economy and inflation.

Consumer Concern Regarding COVID-19

COVID-19 concern down from late summer


  • Concern over COVID-19 has leveled off as cases decline across the country. Two-fifths (42%) of consumers say they are highly concerned about COVID, in-line with last month. 1 in 5 (22%) rate their concern 10/10 – also aligned with what we saw last month, and down significantly from levels seen in August & September. 
  • Concern over the Delta Variant is dropping: 37% say they are specifically concerned about the variant, down significantly from 51% in August and 48% in September. 45% say they are more worried about the variant than they were about the original strain of COVID-19 (-10 points vs. Sept.), and another 40% think the Delta variant has the potential to push their region back into lockdowns (-15 points vs. Sept).
  • Among vaccinated consumers, concern is highest over other adult friends & family members becoming infected. More than half of these (54%) consumers are still highly concerned about COVID-19 overall.
  • Among consumers who will not get the COVID-19 vaccine, COVID-related concerns center around reimposed or extended lockdowns and mask mandates. Only about 1 in 5 (19%) of these consumers are worried about becoming infected themselves. Unvaccinated consumers also have a lower overall level of concern regarding COVID-19, with 1 in 4 (25%) saying they are fully "unconcerned" (0/10 on the scale).



COVID-19 Impact on Consumer Behavior & Comfort Levels

Comfort levels for many tracked behaviors increased this month


  • After significant comfort declines in July & August, comfort with out-of-home activities increased across the board in October & November. Behaviors with the most significant increases in comfort this month are shopping in-store without a mask and gathering mask-less with friends & family. Comfort going to a restaurant saw a slight increase, as did traveling and flying.
  • Unvaccinated consumers saw increased comfort going mask-less in public, as did vaccinated individuals, but to a slightly lesser extent. 
  • Over half of consumers currently prefer wearing masks in public settings & nearly half prefer shopping at retailers that require masks. Both metrics are down this month versus last, while the percent of consumers who believe proof of vaccination should be required for public indoor spaces increased.

Consumer Expectations for Post-COVID Normals

Consumers shift back expectations on return to normal


  • Optimism about a return to normal is up slightly this month, with only 1 in 5 (23%) feeling highly optimistic (8/10+), up from last month's 20% but down significantly from 1 in 3 (33%) four months ago. Optimism is lowest among consumers who do not plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Timing expectations for a return to normal shifted back this month, over half (58%) of consumers expect “normal” to be delayed until 2022 or later, the highest level to-date. The number of consumers who said they were already living “normally” also held steady this month at 29%.
  • One-in-three consumers (31%) think a return to normal will happen more slowly than previously anticipated, down from last month (44%). This is higher among vaccinated consumers (33%) and lower among those who don’t plan to get the vaccine (24%)

Economic Concerns Faced by Consumers

Economic concern fueled by inflation & product shortages increases


  • Concern over the economy grew this month, with two-thirds (67%) of consumers rating their level of concern 8/10 or higher, up from 62% last month 57% in September. 
  • Inflation is top of mind and highly concerning for consumers. The most prevalent economic concern for consumers is rising prices on essential goods & services (84%), followed by product & supply shortages which jumped from 61% in September to 71% this month.

For more information on inflation, visit our Inflation Insights page. 

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Take These Insights Offline

For those looking for a static, offline version of this study, download a summary report with insights from March – August 2021. Report includes:

  • 10-slide summary of the past six months & latest August insights
  • Appendix with slides for each topic broken out by vaccine status

About the Survey

Numerator's consumer sentiment survey is fielded to 1,000+ consumers on a monthly basis. All consumers are active members of Numerator's 100,000 person OmniPanel. Responses are shown at a total level and also broken out by COVID-19 vaccine status & intention, based on Numerator’s Premium Vaccine People Groups. 

Waves 1-3 (March - May) of this monthly survey were broken out based on vaccine status & intention information gathered from consumers February 2021

Waves 4+ (June+) are broken out based on updated vaccine status & intention information gathered from consumers May 2021. Breakouts include Vaccinated & Won't Get Vaccine. Consumers who are unsure or still awaiting their vaccine are included in the survey sample and total rollup, but are not specifically broken out given their small overall percent of the total population. 
Timing & Sample Size of Waves:

  • Wave 1: March 15, n= 2,083
  • Wave 2: April 18, n= 2,262
  • Wave 3: May 17, n= 2,316
  • Wave 4: June 12, n= 1,069 (*updated sample information)
  • Wave 5: July 15, n= 1,071
  • Wave 6: August 13, n= 1,108 (*added & tweaked select questions)
  • Wave 7: September 17, n=1,085
  • Wave 8: October 18, n=1,080
  • Wave 9: November 17, n=1,072

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