Three of the biggest events in the U.S. in 2020, excluding COVID, the Black Lives Matter movement, the 2020 election, and the economic crisis, were the death of Kobe Bryant, Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal, and the launch of SpaceX’s commercial rocket.
Death of Kobe Bryant
- The death of Kobe Bryant on January 26, was one of the biggest events in 2020.
- Bryant was flying in a helicopter with his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people to attend a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks, California.
- While flying, the pilot, Ara Zobayan “encountered thick fog in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles” and crashed into a hillside just outside of the city.
- The crash was determined to be an accident, as the pilot’s autopsy showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system and there was no sign of mechanical failure.
- Bryant was one of the most well-known athletes in the world and people mourned his passing in very public ways, including a celebrity-filled memorial event in February that was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
- Public reactions were initially disbelief and sadness, but eventually turned to a profound sense of loss as people realized that one of the best athletes in history was gone.
- The impact that Bryant’s death had on society at large is not really measurable, but after his basketball career was over, he became extremely influential in telling inspirational stories in sports via video that gave a voice to those who would normally not have one.
- He also coached youth basketball teams, and was involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for more than 20 years. He also volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club of America, the NBA Cares initiatives, and “was the official spokesman for After-School All-Stars” and the Aid Still Required foundation.
- As such, not only was an immense talent lost when Bryant died, but his commitment to his family and community was as well.
Trump is Acquitted of Impeachment
- On February 5, the U.S. Senate acquitted U.S. President Donald Trump of the two impeachment charges from the House of Representatives.
- Trump was initially impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2019 on two charges. The first was that Trump abused his power in telling Ukraine’s leaders that he would withhold U.S. foreign aid money until they agreed to investigate Trump’s chief rival opponent Joe Bidan’s son for “suspicious dealings in Ukraine.” The second was that he “obstructed Congress to aid in his own re-election.”
- The impeachment trial’s results in the Senate were largely a foregone conclusion as the Republicans hold the majority and only one Republican crossed party lines to vote to convict the president of the charges.
- A two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, were required to convict the president and he received 48 on the first charge and 47 on the second charge. Only Mitt Romney, a Republican Senator from Utah, voted to convict Trump on the abuse of power charge.
- Even though the acquittal was expected, there were still very strong public reactions on both sides of the aisle. Republicans mostly agreed with the acquittal while Democrats mostly believed the trial was a sham because the Senate didn’t call any witnesses to testify.
- The trial served to further divide the nation along party lines as Republicans felt the Democrats were conducting what amounted to a witch hunt in an effort to get Trump out of office and Democrats contending that Trump is unfit for the presidency based on his abuse of power, obstructionism, and other factors.
- Political experts believe it is likely that the impeachment trial will have a variety of effects on the society at large, including making it even more difficult to remove a president from office, setting up an even more contentious election in November, lowering the bar for presidential conduct, and putting more power in the executive branch’s hands.
NASA-SpaceX Launch Crew Dragon Spacecraft
- On May 30, the Crew Dragon spacecraft, the product of a partnership between NASA and Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX, launched astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into space, headed for the International Space Station.
- This launched was the first time in nine years that Americans were launched into low-Earth orbit in a rocket and the partnership marked the beginning of commercial space travel.
- Since SpaceX is a private company, it is now feasible that non-astronauts will soon be able to purchase a ticket to space on a commercial spacecraft.
- One reason why this mission was important was because SpaceX needed NASA to “human-rate” its spacecraft so that when it returned from the mission, SpaceX could “begin operationally transporting people from Earth.”
- SpaceX has also established a partnership with “Space Adventures, a private space tourism booking company that has previously worked with Roscosmos on sending private astronauts to orbit.”
- SpaceX wants to begin sending tourists to orbital space in early 2021, and even though pricing has not been announced, it will likely be extremely expensive since each launch costs about $60 million.
- The public’s reaction to the SpaceX launch was one of pride that the United States was the first country to promote commercial space travel. Social media was flooded with posts praising the efforts and ruminating on the inspirational aspects of space travel.
- The impact of this launch on society at large is that Earth is no longer the limits of travel for Americans. If they have the money, they can now travel to places that until now, only astronauts have been.
- Additionally, opening up commercial space flight will further research opportunities for non-NASA researchers, create unique opportunities for marketing and entertainment companies, and likely lead to new industries not yet known.
Consumer Sentiment: 2020
While overall consumer sentiment was negatively impacted severely by COVID in 2020, sentiment has shown a slight rebound in recent months due to businesses reopening and COVID rates dropping. Consumer sentiment varied most age group and by political affiliation, and overall consumer behaviors shifted drastically in 2020 compared to other years due to the pandemic due to lock down and overall value shifts of consumers, which is described in more detail below.
- Consumer sentiment declined throughout 2020, mostly as related to the COVID crisis.
- While there was a slight rise in the summer compared to earlier months due to business reopening and improving virus rates, consumer sentiment remains below what it was in 2019 or early 2020 before the pandemic.
- More specifically, by August 2020, the Consumer Sentiment index stood at 74.1, a severe decline compared to August 2019 when it stood at 89.8, with the score reflecting a drop in personal financial situations, buying attitudes and overall economic conditions of consumers.
- Negative consumer sentiment has a long term outlook, with the majority of Americans believing that the COVID crisis will have an impact on their personal finances that extends past the end of 2020.
- Consumer sentiment around large purchases declined drastically, with 66% of Americans saying they are less comfortable making a purchase of a home or car than they were six months ago.
- Consumer sentiment around discretionary spending also declined rapidly as consumers focused on purchasing essentials, and non-essential businesses closed their doors.
- While consumer sentiment was down across all age groups, young consumers were most likely to have less concern about their spending in some of the hardest hit economic areas, such as travel and entertainment, due to their lower level of concern about catching the virus.
- There was also a regional variance to consumer sentiment in 2020, with the largest declines in the South and West, and regions and states with the highest COVID rates.
- Political affiliation had a large impact on consumer sentiment in 2020, with Republicans being far more likely to feel positively about the economy than Democrats.
- One economic expert reported, “We’re living in two different countries with two different views of what’s going on in the economy … Republicans seem to report that the economy is doing great, that things are mostly as good as they were just before the pandemic hit … Democrats seem to think that we’re not in a good economy, and that it got a lot worse with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Consumer Sentiment By Behavioral Segment
- Consumer sentiment and related behavior was also segmented into four behavioral segments by one source, that reflected how age groups, family and employment status impacted consumer sentiment this year.
- These segments are “Cut deep,” “Stay calm, carry on,” “Save and stockpile” and “Hibernate and spend”.
- “Cut Deep” consumers tended to be those over 45, for whom COVID had the largest impact on their employment status, with these consumers shopping less frequently and 64% only buying essentials, and 33% feeling brands matter less to them now than pre-pandemic.
- “Stay calm, carry on” consumers were those whose employment or financial situation was less impacted by the pandemic, with only minor increases in grocery spending.
- “Save and stockpile” consumers had a long term outlook, and tended to be consumers with families, spending less on clothing and leisure, and slightly more on stockpiling groceries.
- Consumers in the age range between 18-44 were most likely to be “Hibernate and spend” consumers, who were concerned about the pandemic but still shopping as frequently and still valuing brands, with little shift in sentiment but often shifting spending to online.
Related Consumer Behavioral Shifts
- 42% of consumers surveyed in 2020 “believe the way they shop will fundamentally change” following the pandemic.
- The five key shifts to attitudes amongst consumers were a shift to value and essential purchases, a shift to digital and omnichannel, shock to brand loyalty, an increase towards consuming products from companies favoring health and caring, and a ‘homebody’ economy that favored products for at home use over out-of-home activities.
- Consumers are also now more concerned about health, safety, and care, including a focus on how the companies they buy from care for their employees.
- More consumers are shopping online than ever before, as well as preferring contactless services and favoring the adoption of digital options for the future.
- 77% of Americans changed their shopping behaviors, including the places and brands they purchase from during the pandemic.
- The types of brands and products favored has shifted alongside consumer values, with “34% of consumers indicate that they would pay more for local products, 25% for trusted brands and 23% for ethical products”.
- The perspective on how quickly the economy will recover is split in the US, with 53% saying they feel the economy will recover quickly as restrictions are relaxed.
- However, many consumers don’t have positive sentiment around their personal finances, with many households having fallen behind on mortgage and rent payments, and not confident that they will be able to rebound quickly.
- Two-thirds of Americans surveyed also expect 2021 to be economically negative, and 50% believe their will be economic downturns for the next five years.
Some themes that are amongst the most resonant for people in the United States in 2020 include the universal basic income (UBI), climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. There are mixed reactions to the UBI proposal with about 78% of Republicans opposing the proposal and about 66% of Democrats supporting it. Americans searched the internet for various COVID-19 issues, including the testing, spread, effects, prevention, and management of the disease.
Pew Research Findings
- Pew Research provides a list of the themes that resonated most with Americans from January to August 2020, including the universal basic income for adult Americans, the Covid-19 pandemic, and climate change.
- Other top themes that feature in the Pew Research findings are the Black Lives Matter movement, the minimum wage issue, and environment protection.
Universal Basic Income
- According to Pew Research, the issue of universal basic income (UBI) is of concern to about 95% of Americans and reports indicate that UBI will be about $1000 per adult American per month.
- There are mixed reactions to this issue with about 78% of Republicans opposing the proposal and about 66% of Democrats supporting the UBI idea.
- According to Pew Research findings, about 63% of Americans feel climate change has some effect on their local communities and this feeling is stronger among Americans who live near a coastline and among Democrats.
- Americans who live near a coastline indicate that climate change has led to rising sea levels and erosion of beaches and the United Nations reported that climate change would lead to ocean warming, flood and storms.
The Black Lives Matter Movement
- The Black Lives Matter movement receives support from nearly all black Americans, about 60% of white Americans, about 77% of Hispanic Americans, and about 75% of Asian Americans.
- About 70% of Americans feel that working expressly with black people, having joint racial activities, and having more black people in elective positions would help reduce discrimination against black Americans.
- RTI International provides a detailed analysis of Americans‘ internet searches for COVID-19 related information and the analysis shows that there have been about 115 million searches related to COVID-19.
- According to RTI, Americans searched the internet for various COVID-19 issues, including the testing, spread, effects, prevention, and management of the disease.