Survey: Expectations Extended for Post-Pandemic ‘Return to Normal’

SBB Research Group releases new results from its series of national surveys on the personal, economic and societal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

Americans are extending their expectations about when life will return to normal, according to the latest survey findings by Chicago-area investment firm SBB Research Group, which analyzes a wide variety of data to enhance its investment strategies.

Expected Return to Normal? Summer of 2021.

In mid-March, when most of the country was ordered to stay home, many everyday activities suddenly changed or ended as Americans adjusted to a “new normal.” While many states have since reopened in some capacity, Americans are still experiencing the impacts of the pandemic in their daily lives. A significant majority (70 percent) of surveyed consumers “strongly disagree” or “disagree” their lives have “generally returned to normal” since the onset of COVID-19.

When this question was first asked in April, Americans expected their lives to “generally return to normal” by mid-August of this year. Months later, Americans still do not anticipate that life will return to normal anytime soon. Consumers’ expectations have shifted as they continue to wait for an effective vaccine and other public health measures. In early September, surveyed Americans expected their lives to “generally return to normal” by May 2021. The latest survey results reveal the average expectation for a return to normalcy is now July 2021, an increase of approximately 8 weeks.

These views also varied significantly by political party affiliation, as Republicans’ mean expectation for a return to normalcy is 76 days sooner than Independents and 102 days sooner than that of Democrats.

Consumers Reevaluate Willingness to Resume “Out-of-Home Activities”

At the height of lockdowns, consumers were particularly eager to resume dining at restaurants, traveling, and socializing with friends and family. However, as parts of the country are experiencing spikes in cases, some consumers are losing interest in engaging in “out-of-home” activities.

In late August, 28 percent of respondents reported dining at a restaurant that month. Among those who had not dined at a restaurant, 20 percent indicated that they would be willing to dine out “as soon as possible” or “within one month,” but this increase never materialized in subsequent surveys. In fact, the percentage of respondents who dined at a restaurant since August remains unchanged; over the last 30 days, still only 28 percent of respondents have dined at a restaurant at least once. Further underscoring the reluctance to dine out, in that same time frame, seven percent more respondents ordered food for takeout and 10 percent more ordered food for delivery.

The latest survey results reveal that a plurality of Americans is now reluctant to engage in any activities with large groups. For example, 46 percent of respondents are not willing to attend a public gathering even if all attendees undergo medical screening. This result marks a significant increase in an unwillingness to attend such activities; when this question was first asked in May 2020, only 27 percent were not willing to attend any public events.

For more details about these findings, other COVID-19 survey results, and future updates from this research series, please visit

Survey Methodology

The latest results were based on surveys of 302 respondents (153 Democrats, 94 Independents, 54 Republicans) from October 2-5, 2020. September results were based on surveys of 235 respondents from September 4-7, 2020. August results were based on surveys of 271 respondents from August 21-24, 2020. April results were based on surveys of 278 respondents from April 2-6, 2020.

All surveys were conducted online with respondents in the United States, and certain analyses were based on subsets of the survey population only. Additional details about the survey methods and their limitations are available at

About SBB Research Group

SBB Research Group is a Chicago-based investment management firm that views the market through a systematic, interdisciplinary lens. Led by applied mathematician Sam Barnett, Ph.D., and Matt Aven, an experienced professional in economics and computer science, the company specializes in bespoke investments designed to protect and grow investor capital.

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