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The Pulse: Stimulus Checks and the Economy

The Pulse of the American Consumer is focused on continued insight into consumer sentiments for businesses across all industries.


We asked American adults how they planned to spend their stimulus checks, and there were a variety of responses. Some plan to save or invest it, while others are planning to use it for groceries, bills and house payments. In order for businesses to have the most success connecting with their consumers, they have to understand them – what they are interested in, what they need, and how they feel.

At ENGINE, we have the real-time pulse of the consumer, today, and always. Throughout 2021, we will be offering weekly insights through identifying important data points and trends from the voice of the consumer.


KEY FINDINGS AS OF March 21, 2021:

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If you would like more information on ENGINE CARAVAN surveys, contact us below:

At ENGINE, we will be keeping up with the pulse of the consumer throughout 2021, and are regularly running our CARAVAN surveys on current social issues. Contact us at caravaninfo@enginegroup.com for more information or for the full CARAVAN survey findings.

This Online CARAVAN® omnibus surveys were conducted on January 8-10, January 15-17, January 22-24, January 29-31, February 5-7, February 12-14,  February 19-21, February 26-28, March 5-7, March 12-14, and March 19-21, 2021.  Approximately 1,000 adults selected from opt-in panels were surveyed. The results are also weighted to U.S. Census data to be demographically representative.

Written by the CARAVAN team at ENGINE Insights.

The Pulse of the American Consumer

Current Events:

How closely have you followed these news events of the PAST WEEK?

  • The latest updates regarding COVID-19 vaccines
    • Total Followed Closely: 68%
    • Very Closely: 34%
  • The latest developments concerning COVID-19 infections and deaths in the United States
    • Total Followed Closely: 64%
    • Very Closely: 31%
  • The recent surge of migrants at the southern border of the United States
    • Total Followed Closely: 55%
    • Very Closely: 22%
  • The murder of 8 people in Atlanta-area massage therapy spas
    • Total Followed Closely: 51%
    • Very Closely: 20%
  • Recent legislation several U.S. states are introducing to increase restrictions on voting
    • Total Followed Closely: 48%
    • Very Closely: 19%
  • The ongoing debates regarding eliminating the filibuster in the U.S. Senate
    • Total Followed Closely: 45%
    • Very Closely: 18%
  • The beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (March Madness)
    • Total Followed Closely: 29%
    • Very Closely: 12%

How concerned are you currently about these issues?

  • The continuing impact of disinformation on society
    • Total Concerned: 82%
    • Very Concerned: 48%
  • Future threats of violent events in the U.S. caused by domestic terrorists
    • Total Concerned: 79%
    • Very Concerned: 44%
  • The increase in violence and discrimination in the United States against Asian people
    • Total Concerned: 75%
    • Very Concerned: 40%
  • Matters related to racial equality in the United States
    • Total Concerned: 71%
    • Very Concerned: 36%
  • States reopening businesses and lifting mask mandates too soon, resulting in a spike in coronavirus cases
    • Total Concerned: 70%
    • Very Concerned: 39%
  • Elected officials of the United States government that have been known to support or promote conspiracy theories
    • Total Concerned: 69%
    • Very Concerned: 36%
  • Your household’s finances being negatively impacted as a result of the ongoing pandemic
    • Total Concerned: 67%
    • Very Concerned: 33%
  • Contracting the Coronavirus
    • Total Concerned: 66%
    • Very Concerned: 36%
  • Shortages of the COVID-19 vaccine
    • Total Concerned: 63%
    • Very Concerned: 31%


A Quick COVID-19 Update

  • 45% of American adults have already received or are currently registered on a waiting list to receive the COVID-19 vaccine
  • 19% have not received it yet but will as soon as its available to them
  • 16% will likely get the vaccine eventually but prefer to wait until more evidence of safety and effectiveness is available
  • 21% do not plan to receive it at all


Economic Outlook

As the COVID pandemic continues to stabilize, which of these types of places/services do you anticipate going to or using in the next month or two?

  • Dining establishments (Net): 52%
    • Indoor restaurants: 37%
    • Outdoor restaurants: 32%
  • Stores (for in-store shopping): 51%
  • Hair/nail salons/barbershops/tattoo/massage parlors: 29%
  • A large event (Net): 25%
    • A large OUTSIDE event, such as a sporting event, concert or festival: 17%
  • A large event INSIDE an area or public building, such as a concert, sporting event or convention: 16%
  • Movie theaters: 23%
  • Staying at a hotel: 20%
  • Gyms/fitness centers: 17%
  • Flying on an airplane: 15%
  • Bars/Clubs: 14%
  • Leisure establishments such as bowling alleys and arcades: 14%
  • Public transportation such as trains or buses: 11%

An increasing number of states are allowing for increased capacity at places that have been closed or limited to the public. At what capacity level would you feel comfortable attending each of these types of venues today? *Mean Score Summary (Rounded to the nearest whole number)

  • 45% An outdoor arena, such as baseball, football or soccer stadium
  • 42% An indoor restaurant/bar/club
  • 38% An indoor recreational space, such as an arcade or bowling alley
  • 38% An indoor arena, such as those used for basketball, hockey, or concerts
  • 37% A movie theatre
  • 35% A smaller indoor theater, such as those used for plays or comedy shows

Would you say that you (and your household) are better off or worse off financially than you were a year ago?

  • Better off: 28%
  • The same: 45%
  • Worse off: 28%

Now looking ahead-do you think that a year from now you (and your household) will be better off financially, worse off, or about the same as now?

  • Better off: 47%
  • The same: 40%
  • Worse off: 13%

Now turning to business conditions in the United States as a whole-do you think that during the next twelve months we’ll have good times financially, or bad times?

  • Good times: 37% (This represents a 6% increase over one month ago)
  • A mix of both: 46%
  • Bad times:  19%

Looking ahead, which would you say is the most likely economic scenario for the United States during the next five years or so?

  • Mostly periods of economic prosperity: 18%
  • Somewhat more prosperity than instability : 23%
  • About equal parts prosperity and instability: 34%
  • Somewhat more instability than prosperity: 13%
  • Mostly periods of economic instability: 12%

Do you think now is a good or a bad time for you/your household to:

  • Save more than you are saving now
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 53%
    • Very Good: 19%
  • Make extra or lump sum payments to pay off or pay down outstanding debt
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 44%
    • Very Good: 17%
  • Invest more for retirement than you are now
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 38%
    • Very Good: 14%
  • Buy major home electronics such as a TV, computer, tablet in the next month
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 31%
    • Very Good: 9%
  • Researching/booking a vacation or travel for an event in the next month
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 29%
    • Very Good: 9%
      • [One month ago the ‘very/somewhat’ net was 24%, so interest in travel is on the rise]
  • Buy large home appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer, stove/oven) in the next month
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 28%
    • Very Good: 9%
  •  Buy furniture and home decor in the next month
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 28%
    • Very Good: 8%
  • Buy a new car in the next month
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 25%
    • Very Good: 9%
  • Make or begin planning a large home improvement/renovation projects in the next month
    • Very/Somewhat Good: 25%
    • Very Good: 9%

77% of US Adults have already received or expect to receive a stimulus check/direct deposit by the end of March from the newly passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Of those who have already received or plan to receive the latest stimulus check, they plan to:

  • Save it: 40%
  • Use it to buy groceries for your household: 33%
  • Use it to pay for household utilities/other household bills: 31%
  • Pay down credit card debt 31% Use it for housing payments (mortgage, rent): 20%
  • Purchase everyday items for your home/houseware, small appliances: 14%
  • Use it for home improvements/renovations: 14%
  • Invest it 13% Purchase electronics items such as a television, computer or cell phone: 11%
  • Purchase furniture/home décor: 8%
  • Purchase large home appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer, stove/oven): 8%
  • Put it towards a vacation, trip, fun activities: 8%
  • Donate it: 5%


The Presidency

How much do you approve or disapprove of the job President Biden is doing?

  • *Among general population American adults:
    • 55% Approve
    • 25% Disapprove
    • 20% Neither approve nor disapprove
    • +30% Net approval rating (approve-disapprove)
  • *Among Registered Voters
    • 58% Approve (Up 3% in the last month)
    • 28% Disapprove
    • 14% Neither approve nor disapprove
    • +30% Net approval rating (approve-disapprove)



Dig deeper with the ENGINE Insights COVID Dashboard

The ENGINE COVID-19 dashboard delivers an easy-to-use, self-serve platform providing access to all of our COVID-19 tracking data including industry specific deep-dives and online behavioral data. This tool puts ENGINE’s data in your hands to uncover meaningful insights to your specific business questions.