2 years later: Our COVID-19 report and predictions
In April 2020, our agency released our initial report on the public's reaction to the arrival of Covid-19 as well as our 4 predictions on how public opinion would change forever. It was one of our most labor-intense projects ever and we even brought in our co-founder and head UX designer to do the graphics and data visualization for the slides. In this article, we are going to take a quick look back at the report and predictions.
Change 1 – Millions of New Voices
In April 2020, Wick predicted that Covid-19 would become like a “gateway drug,” likely to spawn millions of previously non-political individuals to share their views and more vociferously express their voices. Initially, we sensed a growing chasm between individuals concerned about public health and those concerned about the economic shutdown. Buttressed by increased time on social media, this initial chasm grew wider based on partisan identification that manifested itself in various ways. Many millions became activated as a result of government Covid shutdowns, mask requirements, school closures and remote learning, the death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and social justice protests, the 2020 presidential election season, ongoing border crisis, woke and cancel culture policies, the vaccine roll out, vaccine mandates, election integrity, January 6 Capitol attack, impeachment efforts, the inauguration, and more recently the spike in crime and bail policies. Given the very high interest in the 2022 midterm elections, Wick does not expect these millions of new voices to go silent anytime soon, if ever.
Change 2 – Blurred Party Lines
In April 2020, Wick saw that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents were all equally worried about the public health threat and the economic threat as a result of Covid-19. From this data, we predicted that a nation initially unified to expunge Covid-19 would eventually sputter into divisiveness with Democrats fighting President Trump’s policies on either or both public health or economic grounds. That prediction turned out to be prescient as Trump and his fellow Republicans (especially certain red state Governors) were very aggressive in re-opening their states after the initial wave of Covid started to wane while Democrats favored continued lockdowns of the economy and schools in favor of strict testing, social distancing and eventually vaccine mandates.
Change 3 – Big Interest in Local Government
As a complement to our Change 1 prediction, Wick believed that there would be increased interest in local politics as a result of Covid policies, many of which were initially state-centered and later became more local-specific. One particular phenomenon that came to a head were education practices throughout the country. Parents who otherwise may have been ignorant to school curricula were exposed to arguably objectionable content as a result of remote learning and video classes. Parents, concerned about what their children were learning, turned out in large numbers at school board meetings across the country. So fierce were these encounters that one school board association asked the DOJ and FBI to investigate individuals who had allegedly harassed or threatened school board members and staff.
Change 4 – Biothreat Defense Policy is a Big Deal
When we published our original predictions in April 2020, the Operation Warp Speed public-private partnership to develop a Covid vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostic tools were still a month out. In many respects, Warp Speed was the Manhattan Project of our generation, as hundreds of different entities worked separately and together to pool resources, data, learnings, and strategies to stem Covid. As each new strain of Covid made its way to the U.S., public health officials were a constant presence in press conferences and news reports, albeit often with evolving views and recommendations. Today, we can see the nation’s handling of Monkey Pox as an outgrowth of Covid learnings. In addition, as a result of Russia’s threat to use tactical nuclear weapons to thwart Ukraine’s military strategy, we have read reports that the U.S. government has stockpiled radiation sickness kits. Based on the tumultuous response to Covid, Wick predicts that the public will demand greater transparency between scientific learnings and public policy so as to preclude opaque policy pronouncements and mandates.
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