Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of American Lifestyles including the behaviors, preferences and habits of the consumer.

2020 was a turbulent year for Americans, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a struggling economy, a social justice awakening and a politically divisive presidential election. Heading into 2021, Mintel explores what it means to be an American today, analyzing the divisive political environment, Americans’ outlook on the future of the country, and how these impact consumer behavior and expectations for brands.

Quickly understand

  • The current landscape of America including the impact of COVID-19.
  • Consumers’ personal satisfaction with life over the past year and their life priorities for 2021.
  • Americans’ outlook on the 2020 election and current political environment.
  • How consumers perceive their fellow Americans, the American identity, and future of the country.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Lisa Dubina, a leading analyst in the Lifestyles sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

2020 took a toll on Americans’ outlook on their country, its leaders, and their fellow Americans. Trust and optimism are lacking, with three in 10 Americans still doubting the validity of the presidential election results, and more than four in 10 skeptical that the country will be able to restore national unity in the near term. However, the distant future seems to hold more hope for Americans. The majority of adults believe that their fellow Americans, while fundamentally different from one another, are generally good people. Americans are looking to future generations and brands to help bring the country together.

Lisa Dubina
Senior Lifestyles Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Impact of COVID-19 on American values
    • The effects of and outlook on the pandemic vary by region and population
    • COVID-19 will forever change American culture
      • Figure 1: Impact of COVID-19, December 2020
      • Figure 2: COVID-19 and the American Identity, December 2020
    • The pandemic has made Americans reevaluate their life priorities
      • Figure 3: Looking forward, December 2020
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Personal fulfilment, social lives and quality of work directly drive Americans’ satisfaction
      • Figure 4: Overall life satisfaction, by current financial status, December 2020
    • 2020 took a toll on Americans’ trust and collective optimism
      • Figure 5: Trust in the 2020 election, January 2021
      • Figure 6: Future of American democracy, January 2021
    • Americans do not share universal values or a national identity, making unity a challenge
      • Figure 7: American values and unity, December 2020
      • Figure 8: Future generations, December 2020
    • Opportunity: Unite Americans through family and community
      • Figure 9: Role of brands, December 2020
    • Opportunity: Recognize struggles and appeal to hope in the future
  3. The American Landscape – Key Takeaways

    • Americans’ pandemic experiences are not equal
    • COVID-19 will forever change American culture, even after economic recovery
    • The pandemic has made Americans re-prioritize their loved ones and mental wellbeing
  4. The American Landscape

    • COVID-19 has affected all Americans, but not equally
    • Country composition
      • Figure 10: Number of households in metro and non-metro areas, 2008 and 2018
      • Figure 11: Area of residence for Mintel study participants, December 2020
    • Urban America skews young, multicultural, and Democrat-leaning
      • Figure 12: Urban-dwelling Americans indexed to all Americans, December 2020
    • Rural America skews older, White, and conservative- or independent-leaning
      • Figure 13: Rural-dwelling Americans indexed to all Americans, December 2020
    • Suburban America makes up half the country’s population
      • Figure 14: Suburban-dwelling Americans indexed to all Americans, December 2020
    • Outlook on COVID-19 varies by area of residence
      • Figure 15: COVID-19 exposure, by area of residence, December 2020
  5. The Impact of COVID-19 on American Values

    • Americans believe the experience of COVID-19 will forever change American culture
      • Figure 16: Impact of COVID-19, December 2020
      • Figure 17: Outlook on COVID-19, by area of residence, December 2020
    • Despite anticipating long-term effects, most Americans are confident the economy will recover
      • Figure 18: Economic recovery, December 2020
      • Figure 19: Outlook on COVID-19, by area of residence, December 2020
    • Confidence in economic recovery differs by ethnicity and current financial status
      • Figure 20: Economic recovery, by ethnicity, Hispanic origin, and current financial status, December 2020
    • Americans are less optimistic about the impact COVID-19 has had on the country’s morale and unity
      • Figure 21: COVID-19 and the American identity, December 2020
    • Younger generations are more optimistic on the country’s morals and unity
      • Figure 22: COVID-19 and the American Identity, by generation, December 2020
  6. Looking Forward to COVID-19 Recovery

    • COVID-19 has made Americans reevaluate their life priorities and look optimistically toward 2021
      • Figure 23: Looking forward, December 2020
    • Looking back to 2019 life priorities
      • Figure 24: Top 2019 goals, February 2019
    • Urban-dwelling Americans are notably more optimistic for 2021
      • Figure 25: Looking forward, by area of residence, December 2020
  7. Americans in their Own Words

    • COVID-19 has made Americans reprioritize loved ones and the little things
    • Americans hope that the values of democracy can bring the country together
    • Despite wanting to come together, Americans struggle to see eye to eye
      • Figure 26: Respondent verbatim responses, December 2020
    • Many are skeptical that unity and compromise are possible
  8. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • In spite of the pandemic, Americans are satisfied with life
    • In 2021, Americans plan to prioritize their health, family and finances
    • 2020 took a toll on Americans’ trust and optimism
    • Americans feel the country must focus on COVID-19 and healthcare
    • Fellow Americans are seen as fundamentally different, but generally good
    • In the long term, Americans have faith in the country
  9. Life Satisfaction

    • Despite COVID-19, the majority of Americans are still happy with life over the past year
      • Figure 27: Overall life satisfaction, by area of residence, December 2020
    • Personal fulfilment, social life and income are the top drivers of life satisfaction
      • Figure 28: Key drivers of overall life satisfaction, December 2020
    • Satisfaction directly relates to financial comfort
      • Figure 29: Overall life satisfaction, by financial situation, December 2020
  10. Life Priorities for 2021

    • Health, family, and finances are Americans’ most ranked priorities for 2021
      • Figure 30: Personal priorities, December 2020
    • Americans who say they were unsatisfied with life in 2020 are more likely to plan to prioritize work and income
      • Figure 31: Personal priorities – select responses, by overall life satisfaction, December 2020
    • Nearly half of Americans believe that their fellow Americans have similar life priorities
      • Figure 32: Shared priorities, December 2020
      • Figure 33: Shared priorities, by current financial status, December 2020
  11. Perceptions of the 2020 Election

    • The year 2020 took a toll on American trust
      • Figure 34: Trust in the 2020 election, January 2021
      • Figure 35: Future of American democracy, January 2021
    • Brands can help boost American spirits
      • Figure 36: American optimism, 2016 compared to 2021
  12. America’s Priorities for 2021

    • Americans want the country to focus on COVID-19 relief and healthcare affordability
      • Figure 37: 2021 Priorities for America, December 2020
    • Those who are currently struggling due to the pandemic are more likely to rank financial assistance over vaccine distribution
      • Figure 38: 2021 Priorities for America – select responses, by current financial situation, December 2020
    • Americans’ priorities for the country in 2021 also greatly differ by generation
      • Figure 39: 2021 Priorities for America – select responses, by generation December 2020
  13. Outlook on American Values

    • Americans do not believe there are universal American values or American identity
      • Figure 40: American values, December 2020
      • Figure 41: American identity, December 2020
    • Four in 10 Americans agree that equality is a top ideal
      • Figure 42: Top American qualities, December 2020
    • While older generations emphasize patriotism, younger generations have staunchly renounced patriotism for equality
      • Figure 43: Top American qualities – select responses, by generation, December 2020
    • Americans view others as generally good, but fundamentally different
    • Media spotlight: Some Good News
      • Figure 44: Outlook on American identity, December 2020
  14. Outlook on the Future of America

    • Americans are split on whether or not the country will restore national unity
      • Figure 45: Finding common ground, December 2020
      • Figure 46: Finding common ground, by political affiliation December 2020
    • The majority of Americans also feel that brands can play a role in uniting the country
      • Figure 47: Role of brands, December 2020
    • Hope for the future is another theme brands can use to build a sense of unity among Americans
      • Figure 48: Future generations, December 2020
  15. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • In this divisive time, brands can bolster community and hope for the future
  16. Competitive Strategies

    • Brands finding ways to unite America
    • Appealing to the spirit of community
    • Brand example: Oreo targets Lady Gaga’s little (cookie) monsters
      • Figure 49: Oreo goes Gaga
    • Brand example: Cheerios and TikTok re-create holiday togetherness
      • Figure 50: Cheerios re-creates holiday nostalgia on TikTok
    • Recognizing struggles and spreading hope for the future
    • Brand example: Anheuser-Busch reminds us of the importance of togetherness
      • Figure 51: Anheuser-Busch: Let’s Grab a Beer – February 9, 2021
    • Brand example: Indeed gives job seekers hope
      • Figure 52: Indeed: The Rising – February 9, 2021
  17. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Perceptions of the 2020 election data
    • Consumer qualitative research
    • Key Driver Analysis
    • Interpretation of results
      • Figure 53: Level of satisfaction with Overall life satisfaction – key driver output, December 2020
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  18. Appendix – The Consumer

      • Figure 54: Post-election attitudes, January 2021
      • Figure 55: Levels of optimism post-election, January 2021
      • Figure 56: Post-election sentiment, January 2021

About the report

This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.


Mintel provides a range of market information, frequently through the category level, including market size and forecasting, complete with market drivers that illustrate the forces that shape a category or market.


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Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.


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