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Survey Shows Americans’ Resilience To COVID Amid Return To Normal Activities.

Radio sales departments have new ammo to help close deals with prospects skittish about consumer attitudes and behaviors as the pandemic drags on. Nielsen Audio’s latest Consumer Sentiment survey finds nearly nine in ten respondents (86%) said they were spending the same amount or more since the Delta variant emerged. And despite the Delta variant and increasing COVID cases in the summer, more than eight in ten (82%) don’t think their own financial situation will change in the coming months.

The national online survey of 1,022 persons 18+ is part of an ongoing series that began in April 2020 addressing American sentiment about the COVID pandemic and how it impacts people’s lives. The latest wave shows Americans have considerable resilience and have found ways to adapt to the health crisis.

It also sets the record straight about the split between those commuting to workplaces and those working from home. Seven in ten working Americans now work outside the home, which is an 80% jump since April 2020. This is a key finding for audio since consumers spend more time with radio when they travel in vehicles to get to work or shop.

There were also big gains in the area of transportation. Overall, nearly a third (31%) are spending more than an hour in their vehicles daily compared with 14% in April of last year. That’s a two-fold increase. What’s more, heavy radio listeners are far more likely to spend more time in their vehicles. In September, 55% of heavy radio listeners spent more than an hour in their vehicle the day before they took the Nielsen survey.

“Americans have become remarkably resilient despite COVID and the Delta variant,” said Brad Kelly, Managing Director, Nielsen Audio. “Consumers are returning to more normal weekly activities like returning to work, getting on the road in their cars and trucks, and going out to shop, dine and entertain. As more businesses open for in person and hybrid work, more time will be spent in a vehicle on their daily commute with radio as their driving companion.”

Among the other findings from the study:


Nearly three-quarters have gotten the vaccine or plan to do so and the proportion who are uncertain about getting the shot has declined from 26% in March to 8% in September. Those who do not intend to get the vaccine declined from 20% in March 2021 to 17% in September.

Those who have gotten their shot or plan to get one tend to be male and older. Those who are uncertain or don’t plan to get the vaccine tend to be younger, female, and Hispanic.

Top Weekly Activities

The study shows big gains in September 2021 compared with April 2020 among activities that were restricted during the lockdown. On average, radio listeners are 9% more likely to participate in the top 10 activities and podcast listeners are 6% more likely to engage in these top activities. Radio listeners are more likely to order take-out, dine at restaurants, shop for clothes and non-grocery items, visit coffee shops, and plan vacations. Podcast listeners have a similar pattern and are actively engaged in shopping, driving, going out, and dining at restaurants.


In June, at the end of the last school year, the proportion of children attending in-person classes was only slightly higher than those who were in a mix of virtual and in-person. Now with the new school year in September, those attending classes in person jumped to nearly 70% compared with 13% who go to virtual only classes or a mix of virtual and in-person classes. With more kids attending class in person and more getting to school in vehicles there is a lot of listening to radio on the way to school. More than nine in ten say that the radio is sometimes or always on during the drive to school.

How Local Shopping Has Changed

Ninety percent of American consumers say they are willing to shop at stores in person despite the current state of the pandemic. This is a good sign for the coming holiday season and main street retailers who depend on foot traffic. Roughly six in 10 say they are willing to attend outdoor events like sports and concerts, but there is still some hesitation about indoor events with 46% willing to attend. More than half say they are willing to work in an office setting, but Nielsen says that may change in the months ahead with workplace vaccination requirements.


Substantial numbers (46%) are willing to travel on airplanes now. But only 31% say they are willing to use public transportation considering the state of the pandemic which suggests that we may experience more people on the road as they get to work, shop, and drive their kids to school.

Listening to AM/FM Radio

Radio’s average quarter-hour (AQH) audience trend is up 4% year over year, with 7.5 million people age 12+ listening during an average quarter-hour in PPM Markets in September 2021.

Radio’s reach trend is stable. Radio reached 121.5 million consumers in PPM markets during an average week in September 2021.

In Continuous Diary Measurement markets, Radio’s reach and AQH audience have been remarkably stable during the past year.

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