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We’ll say it so you don’t have to: 2020 was a sh*tshow.

To help make sense of it all, we surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults about their views and behavior in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, political and social events, and other defining moments of 2020.

Here’s what we found.

Part I. The New Normal

2 in 3 respondents were more anxious in 2020 than before.

First, we asked our survey respondents how their everyday behavior changed as they adjusted to the new normal in 2020.

2020 was brutal on our mental health.

In a year shaped by dramatic change and uncertainty, mental health was a struggle for many. 66.1% of survey respondents reported feeling more anxious in 2020 than before. This number spiked to 74.5% on the left of the political spectrum, while dipping to 61.7% among moderates and 60.7% on the right.

Percentage of respondents who were more worried or anxious in 2020 by political views and COVID-19 impact.

Heightened feelings of worry and anxiety were most common among those who experienced the following events this past year:

  • 72.9% of respondents who lost their job due to the pandemic reported feeling more anxious in 2020 than before.
  • 73% of respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 reported feeling more anxious in 2020 than before.
  • 73.6% of respondents who had a family member, friend, or coworker test positive for COVID-19 reported feeling more anxious in 2020 than before.
  • 75.7% of respondents who delayed a major life event due to the pandemic reported feeling more anxious in 2020 than before.

At the same time, 2020 forced us to reflect on what matters most.

Tough times remind us of what really matters in life. While 2020 saw shortages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other essential consumer goods, there were plenty of rude awakenings and reality checks to go around.

Over half of survey respondents (54.5%) reported feeling more thankful in 2020 than before. This trend was consistent across household income levels: 56.4% of high-income households reported feeling more thankful in 2020 than before, compared to 52.1% of medium-income households and 54.8% of low-income households.

2020’s uptick in thankfulness was at its highest among respondents who worked from home and plan to continue working from home either most of the time (59.9%) or some of the time (58.4%), and its lowest among those who worked from home and plan to return to the office full-time (45.3%).

Men, high-income households exercised more in 2020 than before.

Overall, 40.4% of respondents said their exercise habits didn't change in 2020, compared to 35.4% who said they exercised more in 2020 than before. However, this behavior contrasted sharply by demographic.

Exercise habits by gender, age, household income, marital status, and family status in 2020
  • 43.1% of male respondents exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 29.2% of female respondents.
  • 44.8% of respondents ages 35-44 exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 23.8% of respondents ages 55+.
  • 51.9% of high-income household respondents exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 25.8% of low-income household respondents.
  • 48.9% of respondents with a post-graduate degree exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 28% of respondents with only a high school degree.
  • 45.3% of married respondents exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 27.9% of single respondents.
  • 44.2% of respondents with at least one child exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 25.6% of respondents without children.

It’s also worth noting that, of the respondents who tested positive for COVID-19, 52% say they exercised more in 2020 than before.

First-time voters, the political left read more books in 2020 than before.

Like exercise, reading habits didn’t change as much as you might expect at first glance. 48.7% of respondents said they read about the same amount of books in 2020 as before, compared to 37.6% of respondents who said they read more books in 2020. However, a deeper dive reveals divisions along political lines:

  • 46.3% of respondents on the left of the political spectrum read more books in 2020 than before, compared to 31% of moderates and 37.6% on the right.
  • 46.7% of respondents who participated in at least one political engagement activity (phone banking, attended a rally, donated to a campaign, etc.) read more books in 2020 than before, compared to 28% of those who were not politically active.
  • 49.2% of respondents who voted for the first time in the 2020 general election also read more books in 2020 than before.

Online shopping habits skyrocketed.

Shopping online had already become the standard for many Americans prior to the pandemic. In 2020, it became essential.

69.2% of respondents said they shopped online more in 2020 than before. This percentage increased considerably among the following segments:

  • 79.2% of respondents on the left of the political spectrum shopped online more in 2020 than before, compared to 64.4% of moderates and 67.7% on the right.
  • 79.9% of high-income household respondents shopped online more in 2020 than before, compared to 73.8% of medium-income household respondents and 60.3% of low-income household respondents.
  • 75.4% of married respondents shopped online more in 2020 than before, compared to 62.5% of single respondents.

Keeping these significant behavioral changes from the past year in mind, let's now take a closer look at the driving force behind them.

Part II. The COVID-19 Pandemic

7 in 10 respondents who worked from home due to the pandemic plan to continue doing so.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all in one way or another. In Part I, we briefly touched on how the pandemic influenced our everyday behavior and habits in 2020. Part II digs deeper.

You probably know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Percentage of respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020. 10% of survey respondents tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020. This rate skewed higher and lower among the following segments:
  • 13.7% of male respondents tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 7% of female respondents.
  • 16.3% of high-income household respondents tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 5.8% of low-income household respondents
  • 13% of respondents who would get the COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow if they could, tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 5.2% of those who wouldn’t get the vaccine tomorrow if they could.
Percentage of respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 by gender, household income, and willingness to take vaccine.

Additionally, 51.7% of survey respondents said they had a family member, friend, or coworker who received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. This was at its highest among women (59.5%), those who tested positive for COVID-19 themselves (61%), and those who delayed a major life event (65.9%).

Percentage of respondents who know someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Wait… maybe wearing a mask isn’t as controversial as it seems?

Along with social distancing, wearing a facemask is among the most effective ways to curb the spread of this deadly virus. Unfortunately, a simple measure proven to help protect our fellow Americans quickly became politicized and steeped in controversy.

87% of survey respondents said they always wear a facemask in public places. This percentage was at its highest on the left of the political spectrum at 95.3% and its lowest on the right at 79%. However, the gap closes considerably when factoring in those who said they either wear a mask always or sometimes in public places: 99.5% on the left, compared to 96.9% on the right.

High-income households, the political left are the most eager to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

With numerous vaccine roll-outs underway at the time this survey was completed, 61.4% of respondents said they would get the COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow if they could. Here, we discovered a major political and socioeconomic divide:

  • 80.1% of respondents on the left of the political spectrum would take the vaccine tomorrow if possible, compared to 55.6% of moderates and 45.4% on the right.
  • 76.1% of high-income household respondents would take the vaccine tomorrow if possible, compared to 65.5% of medium-income household respondents and 49.3% low-income household respondents.
Willingness to take COVID-19 vaccine by political affiliation and household income.

Most who worked from home in 2020 plan to keep it that way.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 45.7% of survey respondents said they worked from home. Some noticeable differences emerged by gender, household income, and education level:

  • 54.5% of males worked from home in 2020 due to the pandemic, compared to 38.4% of females.
  • 66.8% of high-income household respondents worked from home in 2020 due to the pandemic, compared to 50.9% of medium-income household respondents and 26.8% of low-income household respondents.
  • 67.6% of respondents with post-graduate degrees worked from home in 2020, compared to 22.5% of respondents with only a high school degree.

It's worth noting that, among those who worked from home due to the pandemic in 2020:

  • 39.6% also exercised more in 2020 than before, compared to 35.4% of all survey respondents.
  • 44.9% also read more books in 2020 than before, compared to 37.6% of all survey respondents.
  • 77.5% also shopped online more in 2020 than before, compared to 69.2% of all survey respondents.
  • 60% said Zoom is their preferred professional video conferencing tool, with Microsoft Teams coming in a distant second at 17%.

But perhaps most intriguing is the fact that out of all respondents who worked from home in 2020, 72% say they will continue to do so, either most of the time (42%) or some of the time (30%).

Percentage of respondents who plan to continue working from home vs. returning to the office.

Although the sudden shift to remote work certainly had its challenges, it was a luxury nonetheless. As a result of the pandemic, 2 in 5 survey respondents (39.1%) either experienced reduced income and/or lost their job in 2020.

Plans? What plans?

Lockdowns. Social distancing. Travel restrictions. These and countless other health and safety protocols spoiled a lot of good times in 2020. Yes, these measures were (and still are) in the best collective interest of the nation’s health. But just how disruptive was the virus to the plans we made in our personal lives this past year?

For starters, 2020 was a brutal year for travel: nearly half (46.7%) of survey respondents canceled a vacation in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. This was most common among the segment of respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 (59%) and those who delayed a major life event (62.2%). Similarly, 43.9% of survey respondents said they changed their plans for the winter holiday season due to the pandemic.

Percentage of survey respondents who changed their plans in 2020 due to the pandemic. As we learned in Part I, some people were more motivated to break a sweat during lockdown than usual. However, that doesn't mean gyms reaped the benefits. In fact, 22% of survey respondents reported canceling or pausing a gym membership in 2020. This was most common among the segment of respondents who worked from home due to the pandemic (30.9%).

Given the consistent, widespread uncertainty of the pandemic, some went so far as to delay a major life event, such as getting married, buying a home, or having a baby. Nearly 1 in 5 survey respondents delayed a major life event in 2020 because of COVID-19. The likelihood of doing so increased to nearly 1 in 3 among Gen Z respondents (ages 18-24) and unmarried respondents who live with their partners.

Of course, the COVID-19 outbreak has also had a devastating financial impact. As a result of the pandemic, 14.4% of survey respondents missed a rent/mortgage, student loan, or other recurring payment in 2020. This was more common among women (17.8%) than men (10.1%). It should come as no surprise it was at its highest (30.5%) among the segment of respondents who lost their jobs in 2020.

Despite all of this, many people were still willing to lend a helping hand to those who needed it. 13.8% of survey respondents contributed to a pandemic-related crowdfunding campaign in 2020. This was more than twice as common on the left of the political spectrum (19.9%) as it was on the right (9.6%), and more than three times as common among the politically active (20.6%) as it was among the politically inactive (6.6%) in 2020.

Part III. The Presidential Election

Over half of survey respondents who voted in the 2020 presidential election cast their ballots early.

As if we didn’t already have our hands full enough, 2020 was also a presidential election year. In Part III, we examine the role politics played in the unprecedented chaos we experienced.

4 in 5 people voted in the 2020 general election.

Among survey respondents, 79.7% voted in the 2020 general election, with turnout among men (85.6%) outpacing women (75%). Of the respondents who voted in the 2020 general election, 15.6% were first-time voters. Here, we discovered several key insights:

  • The percentage of first-time voters was about twice as high on the left of the political spectrum (19.1%) as it was on the right (11.2%).
  • 22% of survey respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 also voted for the first time, compared to 15.6% of total survey respondents.

Gen Z and Baby Boomers were the most likely to cast their ballots early.

How and when people cast their votes was significantly impacted this election cycle, too. While 44.5% of respondents who voted did so in-person on election day, 55.5% of respondents opted to vote early, either by mail (32.4%) or in-person at their polling place (23.1%).

Did you vote early (by mail or in-person) or on election day?

Early voter turnout was highest among respondents ages 18-24 (69%), the zoomers, and ages 55+ (66.5%), the boomers.

Meanwhile, 37.9% of respondents on the left of the political spectrum voted by mail versus 21.9% of those on the right. Additionally, 33% of moderates — those who didn't identify with either the left or right — voted early, resembling the voting pattern of the left in this election cycle. It’s also worth noting that females voters were more likely to vote by mail (39.9%) than male voters (24.1%).

Men were more politically engaged than women in 2020.

Aside from voting, 51.4% of survey respondents participated in one or more of the following political engagement activities, with men (58.9%) showing higher engagement than women (45.4%). This checks out, considering voter turnout was also higher among men than women in our survey.

Percentage of all survey respondents who were politically engaged in 2020 and a comparison of male vs. female.

Political engagement was nearly twice as high among respondents ages 18-24 (61%) than it was among respondents ages 55+. It was also substantially higher on the left of the political spectrum (69.1%) than among moderates (43.7%) and on the right (43.2%).

Percentage of politically engaged survey respondent by by age group and political spectrum. The most common form of political engagement among our survey respondents may also be the simplest. 1 in 5 respondents (21.5%) signed a petition related to political or social cause in 2020. This the only activity in which women (24%) were more engaged than men (18%). Nearly 1 in 3 left-wing respondents (32.1%) signed a petition in 2020, making them more than twice as likely to do so than right-wing respondents (13.1%).

Second to signing a petition was phone banking at 17.1%. Participation in phone banking was almost twice as high among male respondents (22.5%) as it was among female respondents (12.8%). Of all political engagement activities listed, phone banking was the most popular among both moderates (19.2%) and the right (15.7%).

And that's not all. We also found:

  • 13.9% donated to a political candidate in 2020.
  • 12.8% displayed a political yard sign or bumper sticker.
  • 12.7% participated in text banking in 2020.
  • 11.8% attended a political rally in 2020.
  • 10.8% attended a public protest or demonstration.
  • 9.4% donated to a PAC (political action committee).

Part IV: Everything In-Between

9 in 10 divorcees who watched Tiger King believe Carole Baskin killed her husband.

2020 was dominated by the pandemic, political events, and social movements. But in-between, there were plenty of other memorable moments worth revisiting, from pop culture to protecting your loved ones.

Netflix struck while the iron was scalding hot.

One week after initial lockdown measures brought the country to a screeching halt last March, Netflix pounced on perhaps the most captive audience in modern times, unleashing the murder, mayhem, and madness of Tiger King.

Still without an answer to the show’s most pressing question, we decided to circle back and ask "all you cool cats and kittens" to weigh in: Do you believe Carole Baskin killed her husband?

Nearly half of our survey respondents watched Tiger King, and 72.9% of them believe Carole Baskin did it — she killed her first husband, Don Lewis. As if that wasn’t damning enough for the eccentric big-cat rights activist and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, this percentage increases considerably among several segments:

  • Divorcees (87%)
  • Right-wing (84.7%)
  • Non-voters (85.2%)
Percentage of respondents who believe Carole Baskin killed her husband by marital status, political views, and voting activity.

Ordering takeout suddenly became smart — dare we say, thoughtful?

The pandemic took a toll on many industries, but restaurants were hit especially hard. With various restrictions on indoor dining in effect across the country, many restaurants were suddenly left to rely on takeout and delivery orders to keep their businesses afloat. Suddenly, what had once been considered a bad habit or guilty pleasure became a safe, responsible way to support local small businesses.

54.2% of survey respondents capitalized on this perfect excuse to indulge by ordering more takeout/delivery in 2020 than before. 25.6% of respondents said they ordered the same amount as before and 13.6% actually ordered less than before.

  • The 25-34 age group was most likely to order more takeout/delivery (60.5%), whereas the 55+ age group was least likely (42%).
  • This behavior change was also noticeably higher among high-income households (68.2%), compared to just 44.1% of low-income households.
  • Of the survey respondents who reported testing positive for COVID-19, 62% said they ordered more takeout/delivery in 2020 than before.

Unlike many other areas of this study, which have varied significantly by gender and political views, this section revealed changes at consistent rates between men and women, and the right and left. Because everyone’s gotta eat.

As chaos and uncertainty became the norm, insurance needs became harder to avoid.

Over and over and over again, the events of 2020 underscored the importance of protecting yourself and your loved ones from the unexpected. Whether you like it or not, that means thinking about insurance. (Ok, no one likes that.)

95.1% of survey respondents said they have at least one type of insurance. Of all insured respondents, 38.6% updated an existing insurance policy in 2020. This percentage was highest among the following segments:

  • 44.5% among insured male respondents.
  • 47.9% among insured respondents who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • 44.7% among insured respondents who lost their job in 2020.
  • 46.5% among insured respondents who worked from home in 2020.
  • 50.3% among insured respondents who delayed a major life event in 2020.
Percentage of insured respondents who updated an existing insurance policy in 2020. Meanwhile, 27% of insured respondents said they bought a new insurance policy in 2020. This percentage was higher among the following demographics:
  • 34.9% among insured male respondents.
  • 44.8% among insured respondents who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • 32.5% among insured respondents who lost their job in 2020.
  • 33.3% among insured respondents who worked from home in 2020.
  • 36.5% among insured respondents who delayed a major life event in 2020.
Percentage of insured respondents who bought a new insurance policy in 2020. In total, over half of insured respondents either updated an existing policy, bought a new policy, or did both in 2020. Further analysis revealed considerable differences between genders and other notable segments.

83.6% of survey respondents said they have health insurance, with women insured at a slightly higher rate (84.3%) than men (82.7%). However, men (66.9%) were significantly more likely to have updated their existing coverage or bought new coverage in 2020 than women (49%).

54.9% of survey respondents said they protect their loved ones with life insurance, with this percentage increasing to 60.4% among and decreasing to 50.5% among women. Upwards of 1 in 3 respondents (36%) with life insurance updated their existing policy or bought a new policy in 2020. This was most common among respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 (49.3%), first-time voters (49.5%), and those who plan to continue working from home (51.5%).

17.1% of survey respondents said they protect their income with disability insurance. A significant coverage gap emerged between high-income respondents (24.2) and medium-income respondents (21%), and low-income respondents (7.9%). This percentage increased to 27% among respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 and 23.8% among those who had a family member, friend, or coworker test positive.

Finally, 6.5% of survey respondents said they have critical illness insurance, a type of supplemental health coverage. Similar to disability insurance, this percentage spiked among respondents who tested positive for COVID-19, increasing to 11%.

Part V. Looking Ahead to 2021

“Be kinder. Be healthy. Be present.”

To wrap things up, we posed one final question and opened the floodgates: Looking at the year ahead, what do you plan to do differently?

Some were optimistic.

  1. “Be kinder. Be healthy. Be present.”
  2. “Contact my elected officials”
  3. “Stay calm and not drink beers so often.”
  4. “Be more engaged in social justice movements”
  5. “Work on my mental health”
  6. “Be more intentional with my spending, with my time, and energy”
  7. “I hope to get back to the gym (when safe to do so), invest and donate to mutual aid networks in my community...”
  8. “Learn how to play chess, get a dog”
  9. “Hug people”
  10. “Thrive”

Others, not so much.

  1. “Nothing because Gavin Newsom is keeping us locked down while he can go out and the same goes for that witch Pelosi.”
  2. “Nothing until maybe the fall, even then I’m not sure things will be in a good place.”
  3. “Expect the worse and plan to buy toilet paper ahead of time”
  4. “Things are going to get worse then ever before”
  5. “Survive because it’s not over yet”

But there was one answer that stuck out to us that, hopefully, we should all be able to agree on: “Not repeat 2020”

Audience Demographics

The Breeze 2020 Exit Survey was conducted online from January 8-9, 2021, by Full Spectrum Insights through Pollfish. Below is a breakdown of our audience demographics.

  • Gender: 55.5% of survey respondents were female and 44.5% were male.
  • Age: 10% of survey respondents were age 18-24, 22.3% were age 25-34, 35.9% were age 35-44, 13.7% were age 45-54, and 18.1% were age 55+.
  • Household Income (HHI): 39.6% of survey respondents were from low-income households (less than $50,000/year HHI), 29% were from medium-income households ($50,000 - $99,999/year HHI), and 31.4% were from high-income households ($100,000 or more/year HHI).
  • Marital Status: 28.3% of survey respondents were single, 9.8% were living with their partner, 47.5% were married, 7.3% were divorced, and 7.1% said their marital status was something else (selected “Other”).
  • Family Status: 45% of survey respondents had no children, 18.3% had one child, and 36.7% had more than one child.
  • Political Views: 40.8% of survey respondents identified as left on the political spectrum, 26.1% identified as moderate, and 22.9% of respondents identified as right. 6.9% said they do not follow politics and 3.3% preferred not to say.

Interested in using a stat or graphic from The Breeze 2020 Exit Survey? All we ask is that you please link to the original page here: https://www.meetbreeze.com/blog/2020-exit-survey/

Curious about something not covered in the report? Email me at [email protected] — I’d love to hear from you.


Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Research
Published January 25, 2021

The easy way to buy disability insurance online.