CivicScience continually tracks current and anticipated consumer trends. Here are three key insights marketers should know this week. All insights are derived from the CivicScience Social | Political | Economics | Cultural (SPEC) Report, a weekly report available to clients covering the latest news and insights.

1. Nearly 9-in-10 U.S. adults believe social media is harmful to children and teens, but Gen Z isn’t so sure.

The spotlight on the use of social media by children and teens has burned even brighter recently. The American Psychological Association recently recommended limiting screen time and providing social media literacy training, while the surgeon general warned of profound mental health risks for kids under 18. Some states are moving forward on legislation to regulate underage usage – a measure limiting social media use of residents under 18 was signed into law in Utah in March. 

The overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (89%) agree that social media is harmful for children and teens under 18. Nearly one-third say it’s ‘extremely harmful or dangerous’ and another 31% are a slight step down at ‘very harmful.’

These strong concerns don’t carry across all age groups, however, as one-third of Gen Z adults believe adolescent social media usage is ‘mostly or completely harmless.’ Gen Xers and those 55 or above are far more likely to feel social media is harmful.

2. The majority of Americans support increasing or maintaining current federal spending levels on infrastructure and public education.

Tense negotiations over raising the debt ceiling have culminated in a deal over the weekend between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The process is far from over however, as the debate now shifts to Congress for final passage as the so-called “X-date” – or date when the country will potentially default on its loans – rapidly approaches. With the prospect of a potentially catastrophic default looming on the horizon, concern levels are on the rise. As debt ceiling negotiations highlight the polarized nature of Congress (particularly in terms of federal spending), Americans in general, however, appear to be opposed to a majority of spending cuts.

As details of the deal emerge ahead of the planned vote for Wednesday, CivicScience data from before the deal show 9-in-10 U.S. adults think federal funding of infrastructure should either be increased or maintained at its current levels – 50% say it should be increased. Public education follows closely behind, with 49% believing its funding should be increased. Even for one of the primary sticking points in the debt ceiling talks, social benefits (such as Medicare, Social Security, and SNAP), 87% believe in at least maintaining current funding, while more than 2-in-5 think these programs should have more funding. 

A much greater percentage of Americans believe federal spending on environmental protection and green energy should be cut, coinciding with a Supreme Court ruling last week limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. Data also show differences in opinion across party lines as well as age (see more in the SPEC report).

3. One in five consumers are interested in AI chatbots replacing speaker boxes at fast-food drive-throughs.

AI has shown it can be a useful technology in a variety of areas and environments. As the proliferation of AI tools continues, Wendy’s is exploring a new usage for AI: the drive-through. In a partnership with Google, Wendy’s will test replacing speaker boxes with an AI chatbot specifically designed to take drive-through orders at select locations next month.

CivicScience data ahead of the initial testing find a plurality (44%) express worry and concern rather than interest or excitement about the technology. One-in-five are at least somewhat intrigued by the new artificial intelligence drive-through ordering technology.

Age is a strong indicator of excitement – Gen Z is more than three times as likely as adults 55+ to be excited for the new drive-thru AI chatbots. Gen Xers show the highest level of concern, as 50% say they’re worried or concerned about AI replacement of drive-through speaker boxes.

Want an in-depth look at the data featured on these topics, along with additional consumer insights from this report? Get access to the full SPEC report every week. Work with us.