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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 at its highest level since March


  • Concern over COVID-19 is on the rise as the Delta variant spreads. Nearly half (48%) of consumers say they are highly concerned about COVID, up 2% from last month. 1 in 4 (26%) rate their concern 10/10 – in line with what we saw last month, and the highest we've seen since March 2020. 
  • The Delta variant is a significant source of concern for many consumers: 48% say they are specifically concerned about the variant, 55% say they are more worried about the variant than they were about the original strain of COVID-19 (+7 points vs. last month), and another 55% think the Delta variant has the potential to push their region back into lockdowns (-6 points vs. last month).
  • Among vaccinated consumers, concern is highest over the Delta variant and other adult friends & family members becoming infected. This group has also seen the largest increase in overall COVID-19 levels of concern, with those rating their concern 10/10 growing from 20% in June to 31% in September.
  • 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 (21%) of these consumers are worried about the Delta variant. While unvaccinated consumers have a lower overall level of concern regarding COVID-19, the number of those who say they are fully “unconcerned” has declined significantly in recent months, dropping from 43% in July to 16% in September, while those rating their concern 10/10 has more than doubled from 4% to 10%. 



COVID-19 Impact on Consumer Behavior & Comfort Levels

Comfort levels for many tracked behaviors decreased this month


  • After significant comfort declines in July & August, comfort out-of-home activities held steady in some cases, declined elsewhere. Behaviors with the most significant decreases in comfort this month are shopping in-store without a mask and gathering mask-less with friends & family. Comfort going to a bar or club saw a slight increase, while Eating outside at a restaurant and staying at a hotel remained steady.
  • Vaccinated consumers saw increased comfort eating at restaurants, and both vaccinated & unvaccinated consumers saw increased comfort going to bars, clubs, concerts and shows. 
  • Over half of consumers currently prefer wearing masks in public settings & shopping at retailers that require masks. Both metrics are up this month versus last, as is the percent of consumers who believe proof of vaccination should be required for public indoor spaces.

Consumer Expectations for Post-COVID Normals

Consumers continue to shift back expectations on return to normal


  • Optimism about a return to normal is flat this month, with only 1 in 5 (22%) feeling highly optimistic (8/10+), up slightly from last month (20%) but down from 1 in 3 (33%) two months ago. Optimism is lowest among consumers who do not plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Timing expectations for a return to normal continued to shift back this month, with over half (57%) of consumers expecting “normal” to be delayed until 2022 or later, up from 48% last month and 18% in July. The number of consumers who said they were already living “normally” also decreased again this month, dropping from 27% to 24%. 
  • Nearly half of consumers (44%) think a return to normal will happen more slowly than previously anticipated, down slightly from last month (53%). This is higher among vaccinated consumers (51%) and lower among those who don’t plan to get the vaccine (34%)

Economic Concerns Faced by Consumers

Economic concern fueled by inflation remains high


  • Concern over the economy remains stable and elevated this month, with more than half (57%) of consumers rating their level of concern 8/10 or higher. These levels of concern are fairly consistent across time and across consumer vaccine groups.
  • Inflation is top of mind and highly concerning for consumers. The most prevalent economic concern for consumers is rising prices on essential goods & services, followed by rising prices on other (non-essential) goods and services. Product & supply shortages, economic recession, and labor shortages are also significant concerns for many consumers.
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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

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