Throughout the pandemic, CivicScience has observed consumer concern about the impact of tariffs rising to new heights and consistently staying there. A slight decline started to occur in the last reading, and it appears that a downward trend is continuing. 

For the full month of August, 65% of American adults report they’re at least somewhat concerned about the impact of recent trade policies on their household expenses, down three points from 68% in the month of July.

At 65%, we’re almost looking at pre-pandemic tariff concern levels, which was 63% in February. Sixty-three percent of the population concerned about tariffs is still high, but why the decrease in concern? 

Interestingly, we’re observing a decline in the percentage of adults (also a three percentage-point decline) who are concerned about being in public spaces right now due to the pandemic. While this is certainly not causation, the correlation between the two is most certainly there.

Digging into this further, we see a distinction between July and August when cross-tabulating the two ongoing indicator questions.

In July, 95% of Americans who were at least somewhat concerned about the impact of tariffs were also concerned about being in public spaces. In August, that number dropped to 90%. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Getting Back to ‘Normal’

We also see a decrease in the number of tariff-concerned people who reported not really resuming normal activities when they were allowed to; in July that number was at 79%, in August it’s down to 72% among those concerned about tariffs.

Impact on Spending

One difference this month, however, is a slight increase in the percentage of consumers noticing a difference in the cost of the household goods they buy. Be it due to actual tariffs or lack of personal funds or  job loss, 30% of Americans reported in August they are buying less than they used to because prices are noticeably higher, up from 28% in July.

One last indicator that lines up with decreasing tariff concern in August is the last two weeks of the CivicScience ESI, a key consumer sentiment tracker on the state of the economy. We observed an unanticipated spike in consumer confidence in the latest reading. 

Overall, Americans appear to be getting back to a sense of normal in their minds, at least for now. Be it a coping mechanism or something else entirely, CivicScience will continue to monitor and report out on changes we see in consumer behavior related to economic policies.