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UK vs. US: How Consumers are Responding to COVID-19

On the 23rd March, the UK went into lockdown. To limit the spread of the virus, UK residents have been advised to leave their homes as little as possible, public parks have closed, and non-essential travel has ground to a halt.

In the US, the timeline is slightly trickier. President Trump resisted calls for a national mandate and allowed each of the 50 states to decide when to issue stay-at-home orders for their residents. This began in mid-March, and as of today, 45 of 50 states have implemented some sort of stay-at-home orders. 

In our recent Webinar, ‘The Public’s Reaction to Coronavirus: UK vs USA’, we took a deep-dive into data from two surveys: one to 1,000 Nat-Rep UK consumers and one to 2,000 Nat-Rep US consumers. The surveys were run between April 18-20th 2020. Here’s what we found out:

People are still worried – but not as worried as they were before

While both nations are still worried, the initial panic has subsided. When asked how they feel about the Coronavirus pandemic, just over half of Brits responded ‘pretty worried’, and just under half of Americans felt the same. There’s still uncertainty for both nations, but the anxiety that people were feeling in early March appears to have eased a little.

A slightly higher percentage of Americans are on the calmer side, with 5.4% saying they’re ‘not worried’, almost 2 percentage points higher than the 3.5% of British respondents who said the same. That might partially explain the recent protests in some US States.

UK vs. US: How Consumers are Responding to COVID-19

Americans have less faith in their government than Brits do

More than a dozen US states have seen people protesting stay-at-home orders, with the BBC reporting that many protesters are citing President Trump’s caution that “we can’t have the cure be worse than the problem” as a reason to relax restrictions on social distancing and closure of businesses.

While these protests are getting a lot of attention, in reality only 7% of Americans surveyed feel the government’s reaction to the pandemic is “over the top”. That’s a small percentage, and in the UK it’s even smaller – only 3% of Brits said the same about their government.

Overall, we’re seeing that both nations feel their governments are ‘doing okay’ (or as well as they could). However, people also feel that change should have been implemented sooner, with around 40% of respondents in both nations feeling that the response is ‘too little, too late’.

UK vs. US: How Consumers are Responding to COVID-19

Brits are more confident in their leader than Americans are

The fear of ‘too little, too late’ also appears in respondents’ opinions of their leader as well. When asked about how well or badly each country’s citizens felt their leader was doing, nearly half (45%) of UK respondents said Boris Johnson is doing ‘pretty well’. Conversely, 29% feel he’s doing some degree of badly, and 4% don’t have an opinion.

In the US, more than a third of the nation believes Trump is doing ‘very badly’. Less than half the nation feeling he’s doing well, and 4% are unsure.

UK vs. US: How Consumers are Responding to COVID-19

People are worrying about similar things on both sides of the pond

When it comes to concerns of Brits & Americans, we saw remarkably similar results across the 2 countries. A quarter of both nations’ respondents are worried about losing their job – more so than running out of food or household supplies.

Americans are more likely to have suffered job loss

Though the worry about job loss is about the same in both nations, Americans are more likely to have suffered it already.

And of those still employed respondents across both nations, 20% of both Americans & Brits have seen a decrease in their wages.

What might this mean for B2C businesses? As both nations re-adjust to lower incomes or loss of income, they’ll be looking for ways to save. Many brands are pivoting and adjusting their offering to account for trying times ahead.

People in both the UK and US are enjoying working from home

With many people remote working during the coronavirus, how are people coping with working fully from home? It turns out both nations are mostly enjoying it, with nearly a quarter of working respondents wishing they could do this all the time. Interestingly, it’s tech native Gen Z (those under 25) that seem to really miss the office!

Brits are more likely to be cancelling or postponing travel than Americans are

Half of those we surveyed in the UK have had to put a holiday on hold, compared to a not-insignificant 40.7% in the US. In the US, people are more likely to be putting off a big purchase, with more than a quarter of respondents reigning in their budgets for big expenditures.

Americans are raiding the shelves more than Brits are

Across the categories we explored, overall consumption is significantly higher in the US than the UK. Proportionally, both nations are stocking up on items similarly -however, a whopping 90% of US respondents are stocking up on things more now than they were before, while a quarter of Brits aren’t buying anything more than usual.

Interested in consumer data during COVID-19, but feeling like you can’t keep up with it all? To get a helpful weekly summary of our key findings, plus other Coronavirus-related content from around the web, sign up to our Coronavirus Digest newsletter:

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