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Survey of life under the pandemic explores how the coronavirus crisis has reshaped American routines, attitudes and activities

Update: For an analysis of the differences between how women and men are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.

Update: For an analysis of how the COVID-19 crisis has affected how Americans view working from home, click here.


Americans living with the coronavirus crisis are reporting rapid, unprecedented changes in their lives and livelihoods, according to a wide-ranging study conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“Without preparation or our permission, we are all participating in the greatest social experiment of our time,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future. “We are learning how to live our lives 24/7 on the internet — whether we want to or not.”

Titled “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: How We are Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” the national online study surveyed 1,000 people, exploring their views about life and behavior during the pandemic, including emotional concerns, loneliness, anxiety, parenting, online education, media and entertainment, shopping behavior, political views, and the problems and benefits of working at home.

Americans reported several concerns, including worries about contracting the virus and increased loneliness and anxiety since the outset of the pandemic. On the positive side, they also describe strengthened relationships, and the pluses of working from home — including the lack of a commute and the greater opportunity to participate in hobbies.

As opportunities for face-to-face transactions have been severely limited, the study also found significant percentages of Americans who had never previously banked online or bought from internet sources have now been pushed into the online experience because of the pandemic.

“We are exploring the biggest disruption of our lives,” Cole said. “Daily life is far more disrupted by the pandemic than after 9/11 or the beginning of World War II. Anxiety is at levels only seen after Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression. Yet in spite of the upheaval, we also found that Americans have positive views about their relationships and hope for how their lives will proceed after the pandemic ends.”

"The study results show that the coronavirus crisis is accelerating shifts in consumer behavior that will permanently alter the way Americans watch, read, listen, play, shop, work and socialize," said Brad Berens, Interactive Advertising Bureau's senior vice president and head of thought leadership. "Changing attitudes about the news and government, new favorite video channels, upstart brands, and new gaming habits are certain to emerge from the rubble — as will a new appreciation for the joys of cocooning.”

Key findings include:

  • Thirty-seven percent of Americans say they are lonelier since the pandemic began, and 61% say they are more anxious.
  • Almost three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they are concerned about getting the virus or that people important to them will be infected.
  • Americans are more likely to say their relationship with their spouse or partner is better (35%) than say it is worse (12%).
  • Among the benefits cited for working online are no commute (66%), more flexibility (64%), relaxed dress/grooming expectations (61%), and control of their environment (59%).
  • Of the seven percent of Americans who had never bought online before the pandemic struck, 32% are now buying online for the first time.
  • Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was cited most often as the public official relied on for information about the pandemic (45%), followed by “my own state’s governor” (35%). President Donald Trump is relied on by 20% of Americans for information about the pandemic.

Click here for more results from the survey.

The findings are based on an online survey conducted in English during the week of April 6, using a sample of 1,000 respondents from an online panel. The sample is representative of Americans aged 18 and above from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.