Data, not dates will define public confidence.
Consumer Sentiment report.
As we reach the end of a first quarter that has provided more questions than answers about the year ahead, this monthly report explores the future hopes and concerns of the Irish public, within the context of the current situation.
With the high level of uncertainty about the lifting of restrictions and the risk we may face a fourth surge as daily case numbers remain in and around 500, consumer sentiment remains quite flat since the beginning of the year.
While the proportion of people who are optimistic about the future is higher than it was last October, when we entered the second lockdown, it is not as high as when numbers were brought down after it.
In March, 53% of the public are optimistic Ireland can overcome, up by only 2 percentage points from February.
Central to this is the level of uncertainty about the near future – and in particular whether vaccines will roll out in time to “save summer.” 29% are uncertain about whether we can overcome the situation.
While concern about COVID-19 has declined from February in line with case numbers, the majority of people are still very or extremely concerned about the situation (55% of population, down from 62% in the previous month).
This is having a significant impact on decisions people are making about the months ahead.
We analysed people’s confidence with various elements of business and society re-opening and while 20% of people said they were confident with elements re-opening now, 80% said it had to be further into the future.
Interestingly, one-third of the public now understand that data, not dates matter and said they would only be confident with re-opening elements when cases in the community are below specific levels or they themselves have been vaccinated.
As a result, despite the high levels of anxiety and uncertainty within the public, there is only a minority who want restrictions lifted now, and there is a significant number who say they would only be comfortable when cases are below a certain level, regardless of the month.
Therefore communications and messaging need to reflect and acknowledge that people are thinking about the data as much as dates. It maybe appropriate that brand tone and planning should respond to the rise or fall of case numbers and not a calendar.