The first few weeks of 2021 have reflected our current reality… hope, dread, rejoicing, disappointment, progress, setbacks, inspiration, resentment, togetherness, fractions and an America deeply divided along numerous fault lines. It is abundantly clear that our political, social justice, economic and pandemic crises will not be resolved overnight. But, the beginning of a new calendar year does bring with it a mental turning of the page and signifies the hope of a better future ahead.
Our assumption was that despite the challenges and continued difficulty of the past year, a number of positive indicators such as vaccine availability, monetary stimulus and more schools reopening to in-person classes have the potential to fuel a groundswell of what I would call “realistic optimism.”
So, we decided to ask Americans what they are thinking about the year ahead. Our most recent G&S Snap Poll has found that Americans remain resilient and willing to do what it takes to return to a sense of normalcy.
Most Americans (74%) plan to get a vaccine and a majority (63%) will encourage others to do the same.
Masks will remain in fashion; with many Americans saying they will continue to wear a mask in public even after it is no longer mandated. More than a third of respondents (35%) said they will continue to wear masks when they feel necessary, such as at large gatherings and when commuting. A smaller subset of respondents (22%) said they will continue to always wear one in public.
Half of Americans (50%) think things will return to some sense of the old normal this fall or next year. A smaller subset (26%) thinks it will happen sooner, while almost a quarter (24%) say it never will.
Americans are split on their perceived outlook for the future of the economy and small businesses. Less than a third of respondents (29%) are extremely or very confident about an economic recovery in the next two years. Even fewer (19%) are extremely or very confident that small businesses will bounce back during that same period.
Most Americans look forward to live events post pandemic. In fact, when asked what events they look forward to most, top answers included attending large gatherings of family and friends (62%), attending a concert (36%), eating at a food festival (30%), seeing theater (30%), and watching live sports (25%).
And finally, when asked about their outlook, nearly half (47%) said they are more optimistic about the future, about a third (32%) said they feel the same about the future as they did last year, and roughly 2 in 10 Americans (21%) said they are less optimistic about the future.
So, what does all of this mean? First and foremost, we are entering 2021 more resilient, and more prepared for continued trial and uncertainty. And with resilience comes accountability. Americans are saying they will do what it takes to fully live their lives again. If they must wear a mask to football games, they will do it. If they must get a vaccine to travel, they will get it.
But more deeply, many of us want back what we had previously taken for granted. Those little moments that make life worth living. Families being together, going to games and events with friends, even just having a date night at a crowded restaurant. These little moments mean something more to us now.
This past year of hardship means that people will truly treasure what they get to do, where they get to go, and who they get to be with much more than they did last year. Because so many of us sacrificed precious time with our families, friends, and communities in 2020, we are willing to do what it takes to experience these moments once again.
We asked a few of our clients what they are most looking forward to in 2021 and their responses mirrored the findings of our Snap Poll. The overarching themes were ones of hope, dreams of a return to the simpler things, as well as the promise of new experiences and rebirth.
One of our friends simply hopes to once again be part of the crowd. “As far as what I am looking forward to in 2021, it’s pretty simple – attending a live event. Whether that’s my kid’s musical or a Mets game, I am really hoping to feel the joy of a live performance once again. It’s been too long!”
In a similar vein, another partner is looking for a renaissance, saying, “My hopes and wishes might be colored by the stage of my [20-year] career, but I’m looking forward to the birth of so many creative endeavors over the next 20 years. 2020 felt like the end of so many things… so we could create room for the birth of what’s next.”
And another shared positive vibes that, “I hope our expansive dreams, precise goals, and celebrations of success leave the muscles in our faces tired from constant smiles and the palms of our hands red from high-fives.”
Here’s hoping the best for you and yours in the year ahead!
*G&S Snap Poll based on a representative sample of 1,031 Americans aged 18 and older from 1/4/21 to 1/6/21. The sample has been balanced for age and gender using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States.