I hate to break it to you, but campaign season is almost upon us. We had a nice respite for a minute. 

It’s fitting to write this the week of Groundhog Day, because that’s what it’s going to feel like. Say goodbye to the pleasant Wordle posts wallpapering your Facebook page and make way for the returning onslaught of memes, doomsday posts, and typo-laden arguments between your aunts, uncles, and high school friends. Woohoo!

It won’t happen overnight. The next few months will just be the appetizer. 

Political tribalism is flummoxed by midterm primaries in the gerrymandering age. Redistricting disintegrated the middle, so most campaigns are just a bunch of partisans trying to outflank each other. In binary tribal politics, people don’t know what to do about primaries. We’re conditioned to only vilify people on the other team. Canceling our own doesn’t compute.

Sure, fealty to Trump will draw lines in the sand on the right and the Squad-types may demarcate the left, but the debate shouldn’t get ugly. We’ll just have to suffer through abhorrent and cheaply made ads until the big money rolls in for the general election. 

I don’t need to tell you what the fall will be like. You can probably still taste it from last time.

Another political season also means it’s time to caution you again about the evils of political horse race polls. They serve no good. Respondents avoid them – or lie. Most importantly, it’s fundamentally impossible to precisely predict how – or if – 258 million U.S. adults will vote tomorrow, let alone weeks or months away. You’re being duped every time you see election polls in the news. 

Hacks have given the field of attitudinal research a bad name. I hear it from Luddites at both ends of the political spectrum all the time – “Polls can’t be trusted!” Some polls maybe. 

Comparing what we do to horse race polling is like comparing clinicians at Johns Hopkins to quacks on YouTube. There isn’t enough money in election forecasting to spend what we spend on engineers, data scientists, machines, or sample sizes. And we’re not so desperate to see our name in the press that we’ll tell you we know something when we don’t.

You’ll see plenty of clickbait polls in the news anyway. Along with everything else that sucks about campaign season.  

So, get ready. It’s coming. Like it or not.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Consumer confidence didn’t get any worse this week. The headline of our latest Economic Sentiment Index called it a “rebound,” which is generous, if technically accurate. While most of the indicators were in the black, the decline of confidence in personal finances is the most concerning. Upper income Americans are still buoyed by COVID-era savings and market gains, as middle and lower-income groups are feeling the increased strains of inflation and post-holiday credit card bills. Needless to say, this will have an uneven impact on different categories of spending, retail, experiences, and finance. As an aside, yesterday’s epic jobs report is exactly what we told you was coming for months, as “the great resigners” watch their stimulus+COVID savings deplete under inflationary pressures and jump back into the workforce.

Supply shortages aren’t getting better yet either. A full 84% of Americans say they are concerned about supply chain issues right now, including 34% who are “very concerned.” The percentage of shoppers who said they haven’t run into supply shortages fell 21% since early December. As a result, almost half of adults say they are buying less – which could be masked in retail sales data because people are paying more for the things they buy. Again, we are seeing a high degree of variability among consumers in different income segments, retail categories, and even brands.

The Winter Olympics should be great – for a very particular type of advertiser. Interest in the Beijing Winter Games is lagging heading into opening weekend, with over half of Americans saying they’re less likely to watch than in past years. There’s overwhelming evidence that political forces (and fragmentation) are to blame here as well. While likelihood to watch is down across the board, Republicans are 50% more likely than Democrats to say they’re less likely to tune in. We can’t even unite around the freaking Olympics anymore. Still, certain types of advertisers should do well with the audience – if they focus their ads on brand and social consciousness. 

In more blatantly political news, people are divided on the Spotify controversy, unless they actually listen to podcasts on Spotify. Wrapped in a bigger study about podcast listeners, their favorite shows, and platforms, was a look at whether people think Spotify should drop Joe Rogan from its platform. Americans are pretty evenly split, with slightly more believing Rogan should be excommunicated. But when we cut the data only among Spotify podcast listeners, it’s not even close. They oppose de-platforming Rogan by 3 to 1, presumably because many of them, well, listen to Joe Rogan. Spotify’s music listeners and podcast listeners are quite different, which puts the company in quite a pickle. 

Digital payment platforms just keep growing. As I sit here and Venmo $10 to Noelle’s diving coach for her meet this morning, I’m marveling at how ubiquitous it seems to be. Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults use one or more digital payment apps and it’s way higher among younger age groups. One-third of online shoppers now do at least half of their online purchasing with a digital wallet. PayPal is still the dominant player. Convenience is the #1 driver. There’s a ton more in this study if you’re into fintech or digital retail, but I’ll stop there. 

In a related study, Walmart’s new financial app could make waves. Mostly just to show off how fast we are, we published a study about the new banking “super app” Walmart announced for its employees and customers, one business day after they announced it. As many as 1 in 4 Walmart shoppers could take advantage of it, which is a lot of people. 

The latest COVID surge has wreaked havoc on childcare. Over the past month, 27% of working U.S. parents had to miss work due to school or childcare closures. As we found in this study, people who were forced to miss work also happen to be the people who are most likely to be unhappy in their jobs, probably because their job doesn’t offer them any flexibility. No shocker, working moms bore the brunt of the disruption because our society is fucked up and men take advantage of it.    

More great stuff from the CivicScientists this week:

This week’s top questions: 

Answer Key: Is 12% significant?; Extremely spicy; Big time; Trust, but mostly convenient; Great question – but cold pool.  

Hoping you’re well.


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