If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope in the world, the American Values Survey came out recently – it’s not our data but it’s legit.

The study found that 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage. Good luck finding many things 70% of Americans agree on.

Yes, it’s terrible that 30% of people don’t agree.

In 2004, I worked on legislation to extend hate crime and workplace discrimination protections to the LGBTQ+ community in Pennsylvania (it was just “LGB” then, that’s how long ago it was). We couldn’t get it passed. Shamefully, the latest iteration – the Fairness Act – is still stalled in the PA legislature today.

But, when you consider that nationwide support for marriage equality was barely 40% ten years ago, the shift in public opinion is staggering. Also, heartwarming.

Even confounding.

How did an issue that was once so divisive move more rapidly than anything I’ve studied in my career, especially with today’s entrenched tribalism? And how can we move other issues – like racism and xenophobia – with as much velocity?

It all starts with empathy.

In a mea culpa I wrote many months ago, I shared how my dad overcame his homophobia when some of my closest friends came out. That’s how most prejudice is reformed. We fear or at least misunderstand the unknown, until it’s not.

Over time, as LGBTQ+ daughters, sons, friends, and neighbors courageously step out, the fears and unknowns of others are slowly educated away. Not from a book, a political speech, a character on TV, or a meme on Facebook, but from proximity, personal experience, and empathy. As society becomes more accepting, the next wave of courageous daughters, sons, friends, and neighbors step out. A virtuous cycle rolls forward.

By no means am I saying we should dance in the endzone over one statistic, particularly when places like Pennsylvania still legislate prejudice. But, it’s progress.

And progress is hope.

I know it feels like we’re really divided right now. Like there are two Americas. Two truths. But I genuinely believe we have hit our bottom – like a drug addict tethered to the narcotic of political tribalism. There’s nowhere to go but up.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking we understand why other people do or believe the things they do. We almost never know what circumstances or experiences make people what they are.

Empathy is the only answer. And it’s out there.

I just proved it to you.

Here’s what we’re seeing this week:

Starting with some good news while I’m feeling optimistic, Americans are more willing to get a COVID vaccine now that viable ones are on the horizon. After a few months of troubling declines I told you all about, the percentage of adults who said they would get a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available jumped 5 points in the past couple weeks. The news of two promising vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna definitely had something to do with it. But so did politics. Because of course it did.

Incidentally, from the same study, 80% of Americans would support a statewide mask mandate where they live. Good. Wear a freaking mask, people.   

In not so good but completely unsurprising news, people are freaking out about COVID. Confidence in just about every consumer category is sliding backwards – fast  – as the pandemic rears its head in every corner of the country. Travel, going back to work, shopping in stores, going to concerts (especially if Ticketmaster makes people prove they’ve taken a COVID test) – everything – is feeling less safe.

If you’re looking to hoard toilet paper or bread yeast, go to an area that voted for Trump. Get ready for round two of empty grocery shelves in the coming weeks as over half of American households plan to stock up on essentials to ride out the COVID storm. Women are being particularly vigilant, while Republicans are much less likely to raid their local stores. So, if you’re cruising down the road and see a bunch of MAGA signs, pull over at the next store you find and stock up.

People are going to be loading up on CBD and edibles to handle their holiday stress. OK, we didn’t ask about weed but I’d bet you a bag full of gummies that it’s the same story. More than 1 in 5 Americans say they plan to munch on CBD to manage stress this holiday season and the numbers get higher (pun intended) the more concerned someone is about COVID. It’s not younger people either – older Millennials and Gen Xers are the most likely to need mellowing out. Because of our kids, probably.

Nobody cares about Black Friday or Cyber Monday this year. “But John, last week you said…” Yeah, I know. Hear me out. What I said last week is that “Black Friday” has become a concept more than a day – it’s basically any discount holiday shopping you do before December. That kind of shopping is way up, year over year. But the official Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days are likely to be way down. You could blame them both on COVID, for different reasons. Not many people want to ‘bust the doors’ of TJ Maxx or Kohl’s on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving and start a superspreader event. Meanwhile, sitting at home on your computer shopping all day isn’t that novel when you’ve been sitting at home on your computer shopping all day for 8 months. This holiday retail season is going to be massive – just on a different cadence.

Here are the studies I couldn’t get to this week but that you should definitely read:

  • For the people who are thinking about traveling over the holidays, we looked at the venues and the measures that would make them feel safest;
  • If you have kids you probably know this but, if you don’t, believe me when I tell you Animal Crossing is a huge phenomenon;
  • Fewer people are planning to buy themselves a gift this holiday. Hopefully they give something to charity instead;
  • A whopping, I mean Big Mac, I mean A LOT of people are going to try the plant-based burger McDonald’s is rolling out;
  • The dimensions of holiday shopping are going to be different this year, with some groups spending a lot more and some spending less.

These were the most popular questions this week:

Programming Note: I’m taking off next weekend for the holiday. Have the happiest of Thanksgivings and I’ll see you again in December. 

Hoping you’re well.