Are we going in the right direction?

Yes. But that’s not the point. Actually, it is. Just hold on a minute.

Because 71% of Americans think we’re headed in the wrong direction. At least that’s what I saw in a poll from NBC this week. 

It wasn’t breaking news. NBC’s poll has hovered around 70% for 16 months (that’s as far back as it goes). Guess it was a slow clickbait day. 

According to Gallup, the last time even half of Americans thought the country was on the right track was 2004, all while 18-year-olds were dying in Iraq and a greed-induced financial crisis was brewing. We were clueless. 

I don’t love right-track/wrong-track polls anyway. They can’t answer why. Maybe I’m worried about money. Maybe money’s fine, but antisemitism is on the rise and women’s rights are under assault. Maybe tribalism and social media are tearing us apart. 

What if all those efforts by our enemies – foreign and domestic – to sow discord here actually worked? Imagine that asshole Putin, smirking, winking, and fist-bumping his oligarch friends, every time a new conspiracy theory washes over Facebook. 

Don’t appease them.

Because we’re alive at the greatest time, in the greatest country, in history. [EOM] 

“But the 50s and 60s,” you say! Tell that to a person of color or LGBTQ+ or anyone who has cancer or heartburn. 

The 70s? 80s? Maybe if you like war or crime. Or AIDS. Or people smoking on planes.

The 90s? Well, almost. Except more war(s). And divorce – lots of divorce. And Limp Bizkit.

Today is miles from perfect. But it’s also many more miles from imperfect than we’ve ever been. And don’t let anyone tell you differently, because they’ll try, because that’s the stuff you click on.

Yes, there’s inflation. Also, paltry unemployment. Tech companies fired 50,000 highly-educated workers? They hired four times more last year. Eggs cost $5? You can listen to every song ever recorded for $3. A virus raged across the planet? We vaccinated billions in a minute. 

Here’s a number that matters: 12%. That’s how many Americans describe themselves as “unhappy” today, down a point from last year. Yeah, it was a little better in 2019, but then WE HAD A F–KING GLOBAL PANDEMIC!!! And it’s still only 12%. 

Over the past decade, happy Americans have outnumbered unhappy ones by over 6 to 1. Look:   

I have no idea what direction we’re heading long-term. Nobody does. But wherever we are right now is relatively awesome. Make no mistake. 

Be happy.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Ok, well maybe consumer confidence has been better. Our Economic Sentiment Index had another modest downturn over the past two weeks, driven primarily by strains on household finances. Late January is never great once those Christmas credit card bills show up, but this one is a little more nuanced. Attitudes toward the job market have soured too – though I’m still convinced that’s more about PR than reality (especially after yesterday’s jobs report!). The one bright spot was a notable improvement in attitudes toward the housing market. Consumers seem to believe that the bottom was reached. 

COVID is so 2022 (and 2020 and 2021). When I first read this headline: “Majority of U.S. Adults Are Ready to Move on From the Pandemic,” I furrowed my brow. I think we were all ready to move on the moment it started. What our study shows, though, is that a super-majority of Americans support the Biden Administration’s end to the COVID public health emergency. It’s even equal among both political parties (though Rs more vehemently), making it the first time most Republicans ever said “Biden” and “strongly approve” in the same sentence. Today, only 7% of U.S. adults say COVID still plays a major role in their day-to-day life. Thank goodness.

Ads on television (and streaming TV) have much less influence on Gen Z compared to older generations. Yet further proof of the profound impact social media – and especially TikTok – is having on the advertising industry, 64% of Gen Z say the most influential video ads are found on social media or free websites like YouTube. TV and CTV are the top answers among just over a third of Zs. When it comes to the highest resonating types of commercials, 53% of U.S. adults prefer spots that are funny. Among Gen Z, that falls to 36%. Emotional, visually appealing, informative, and commercials with good music all over-index in popularity among younger adults.

After falling steadily for over 13 months, intent to invest in crypto appears to have stabilized. The percentage (20%) of U.S. adults who’ve invested in crypto has remained uncannily flat since November 2021, meaning that even as the market ebbed and flowed (mostly ebbed), the same group of people is playing. Intent among non-investors, meanwhile, fell from 14% in December 2021 to a low of 8% in December 2022, before climbing 1% in January – the first bump in 16 months. Despite the bloodbath in the crypto market last year, 62% of stalwart investors have stood pat.

Language learning apps have a lot of untapped upsides. I’m a huge fan of Duolingo, not that I’ve tried it. But their building is right across the street from ours in Pittsburgh, their company-owned taco shop is the bomb, and the founder is one of the three smartest people I’ve ever met. Anyway, language apps like Duolingo and Babbel have way more potential to realize than they have. Just 13% of U.S. adults have used (and like) these apps. The good news, however, is that another 16% (and growing) of Americans say they intend to try one. As a company that studies adoption curve dynamics more than anyone, when the percentage of intenders is larger than the base of users, it speaks of big opportunity. In case you’re wondering what people’s motives are for using language apps, boy do I have the chart for you.

Way more free awesomeness from the InsightStore this week:

  • Grocery shopping at dollar stores has fallen since September; 
  • Over 1/4th of adults are interested in the new BofA+Chase+WellsFargo digital wallet;
  • Here are “3 Things to Know” this week, like cutbacks at the grocery store;
  • Sorel and Timberland are the most popular winter boots this season;
  • Super Bowl interest has rebounded to pre-COVID levels, despite the refs completely screwing the Bengals;
  • SUV intenders are much more likely to have cut the cord, and other stuff;
  • Crypto investors skew higher than the Gen Pop in intent to watch the Grammys this weekend.

The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Very dangerous – I got hit by an errant golf ball once; All real; No comment, lest I have to resolve a conflict in my romantic relationship; Of course; No chance.  

Hoping you’re well.


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