Study finds reliance on Trump drops; public support of government response to the coronavirus declines

August 5, 2020 — A growing number of Americans say federal, state, and local governments are doing a poor job of responding to COVID-19, and Anthony Fauci continues to be the nation’s most relied-upon source about the coronavirus, reports a new study by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

Fauci still #1 source for pandemic information; Trump slumps

The Center’s second survey of the social impact of the coronavirus, conducted during the fourth week of June as follow-up to an initial study in April, found more Americans (44%) rely on Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, than any other individual for information about the pandemic.

After Fauci, individuals rely on New York governor Andrew Cuomo (19%), CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta or the respondent’s own mayor (16%), and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx (15%).

The June survey found President Donald Trump is relied on by 12% of Americans for pandemic information, down from 20% in the Center’s survey in April. In the June survey, 29% of conservatives and 2% of liberals said they rely on Trump. The largest level of reliance on Trump was 40% of those who identify themselves as very conservative.  (more)

The coronavirus pandemic has produced unprecedented disruption of our generation, but it could have been So. Much. Worse. Jeffrey Cole explores what our pandemic experience would have been if — like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — the internet had never been born.

The internet won!

In the middle of March, with little warning or preparation, we moved our lives online.

What couldn’t be transferred online simply stopped. Movie theaters, concert halls, and theme parks closed. Baseball and basketball suspended their seasons, and it is still not clear if they will resume, or if the football and hockey seasons will ever start.

Almost all dining in restaurants stopped, and many people were hesitant to eat even at outside tables at the small number that stayed opened. Travel came to a standstill with airlines barely operating and hotels facing little occupancy. Cruise ships will not see passengers for a very long time.

If it couldn’t happen on the internet, it didn’t happen. If it could, it did.  (more)

In the next two decades, almost half of American jobs may be at risk because of advances in technology. How will A.I. affect broadcast media?

By Ruozhu Zhao

(Zhao is an associate professor in the Communication University of China, and a visiting scholar to the Center. Contact Zhao at [email protected])

Xin Xiaomeng (right), the first female artificial intelligence news anchor, from China’s state-run press agency Xinhua. Xin Xiaomeng was modeled after flesh-and-blood journalist Qu Meng (left). To see Xin Xiaomeng at work, see a sample here.

In 2013, Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey of Oxford University conducted a research study titled “The Future of Employment” that investigated the futures of 702 of the most common jobs. For each job, they considered the question, “Can the tasks of this job be sufficiently specified, conditional on the availability of big data, to be performed by state-of-the-art computer-controlled equipment?”

The groundbreaking research by Osborne and Frey has been cited more than 5,000 times, unnerving workers in all sectors of the economy and providing a new perspective on the impact of new technology on the workforce globally.

Since the study was released, this trend of automation has been picking up pace, and A.I. has started to invade many aspects of the news business.

These technological developments can be observed in news and journalism in China, but with on-screen images that take A.I. to a new level of presentation. Artificial intelligence replacing news anchors in China has gradually become a reality – not just as automated delivery of the news, but with animated, human-like images that deliver the news just as their human counterparts do. (more)

Although we’re watching more video than ever during quarantine, the streaming surge can’t replace lost box office dollars. Will movie theaters survive? Center director Jeffrey Cole does the numbers.

The billion-dollar movies that open on 4,000 screens are the ones that command all the attention and get fans into crowded theaters. There is strong evidence that when one or more of these films are in theaters, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and smaller films prosper as well.

If the studios place their bets correctly, these are the films that can earn $1 billion or more worldwide. Last year, Avengers: End Game set a new record by reaching $2.8 billion.

These are the superstars of film and what every studio and theater chain aspire to achieve.

Like travel, restaurants, sports, and theme parks, the film industry has been severely wounded by the coronavirus pandemic. It will likely emerge from the crisis more transformed and weakened than any of the other businesses.

The billion-dollar film is dead, at least for now, possibly never to return. It simply isn’t possible for a film to earn a billion dollars in 2020.

Movie theaters may take years to return to pre-Covid days, if they ever do. Part II of our Coronavirus Disruption Project shows that as of early July only 11% of people would consider going to a movie theater. More alarming, 42% say they will not consider going until there is a vaccine. (more)

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated many trends that already existed, teaching us to stream more and forcing us to reconsider how much we need offices or stores. But as Center director Jeffrey Cole describes, one environment that has resisted evolutionary pressure, though, is college.

This column focuses on how the coronavirus pandemic and the move to learning online has affected the lives of traditional college students under the age of 25 who live on or near campus. A later column will look at less traditional students who may be older, attending part-time or working full-time and may not live near campus.

It’s the middle of June: all across America families are celebrating high school and college graduations. This year it’s very different. Graduates of the class of 2020 will be forever remembered as the Covid Grads, finishing school during the pandemic.

In 2020, there were no proms, grad nights or graduation ceremonies. Some graduated on Zoom—celebrating virtually with their classmates—while others stood in the street in front of their homes while friends and families drove by honking from a safe distance.

Most college students living away, whether they were seniors or not, finished the last months of the school year by packing up their belongings and moving back in with Mom and Dad.

As bad as it was for those finishing the school year, it will be even worse for the high school grads starting their first year of college in the fall. Forget summer travel before starting college. Forget freshman orientation as they get introduced to their living arrangements on a new campus.

The only travel in their future will be to their parents’ basement, where they will not need an orientation. All of the experiences of moving to college, making friends and meeting roommates, regulating their own hours and behaviors, and sitting in a classroom soaking up knowledge may have to be deferred for a semester or more.  (more)

June 4, 2020 — Working from home during the pandemic became an unexpected reality for millions of Americans, and while many want their careers permanently based where they live, hurdles to that goal remain, reports the first comprehensive study of the social and cultural impact of the coronavirus conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“The sudden shift to working from home has worked well for many, but success has been mixed,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Many Americans want to continue to work from home when the pandemic is over, but some miss the interaction and structure of the workplace.”

The overall findings released April 29 in the Center’s study, “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” revealed many changes – both positive and negative – in relationships, emotional stability, and personal behavior since the pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.

Looking specifically at the issues involved in working from home, the study found a range of benefits and disadvantages affecting Americans. (more)

As Center Director Jeffrey Cole explains, the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic combines three of the worst years in American history: 1918, 1933, and 1968. 

Our recent Coronavirus Disruption Project is full of countless trends, insights, and numbers.

One number stands out from the rest: 37%. That’s the percentage of Americans who—even after a vaccine is found and the pandemic fades away—plan to reduce their face-to-face contact with other people.

Once we feel safe (if we ever do) we may quickly revert back to old habits and behaviors. But, in the middle of the pandemic, more than one-third of Americans think they will be uncomfortable in large gatherings, crowded public transportation, packed beaches and swimming pools, shoulder to shoulder in bars and restaurants, full stadiums, theme parks, and movie theaters.

Air travel may represent more than an inconvenience: we may feel anxious in long security lines and sitting uncomfortably close to dozens of other people in a long tube for hours.

In short, 37% will view other people as a potential threat.  (more)

How much of our lives can we squeeze through Zoom and other videoconference services? A recent funeral marked out a boundary.

By Brad Berens

When a family member dies, the script is clear: you scramble the jets, cancel your appointments, lean on a friend to watch the dog, and get there. For me, that means getting to Los Angeles from Portland.

My aunt, Marlene Meyer, my mother’s sister, died on May 15th. She was 86, vibrant, still working as an insurance agent days before her death, not ready to die. Our family wasn’t ready either. We do not know if she had contracted Coronavirus — a maddening ambiguity — but we do know that Coronavirus changed her decline, death, and funeral.

I’ve lived in Oregon since 2009, always aware that the biggest challenge of being far from where I grew up and where my first family still lives would be moments like these.

The script is clear, but Coronavirus changed the script.  (more)

May 21, 2020 — While many Americans agree that the coronavirus is changing life at home on an unprecedented scale, men and women report significant differences in their views and behavior, according to the first comprehensive study of the social and cultural impact of the pandemic conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

“We are seeing many differences between how men and women are experiencing life during the pandemic – especially in their levels of concern about the effects of the coronavirus, what they miss, and what they enjoy,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future.

The overall findings released April 29 in the Center’s study, “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” revealed many changes in views and behavior – both positive and negative – reported by Americans since the pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.  (For an overview of key issues found in the study, go here.)

Looking more closely at the study’s findings about life at home reveals some sharp differences between men and women and how they are experiencing the pandemic.  (more)

(For comprehensive material about the Coronavirus Disruption Project Study — reports, PDFs, and releases — go here.)

Going to work: a commute of ten miles or ten feet?

Data from the Center’s new Coronavirus Disruption Project suggests that many Americans will never go back to daily commutes to work in offices, and as Center director Jeffrey Cole explains, that’s not a bad thing, either.

The phrase “going to work” has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Two months ago, most of us had never heard of Zoom. Now, for those who are working at home during the Coronavirus pandemic, Zoom is a way of life.

Zoom has moved into a rarefied atmosphere of the tiny list of companies whose brands that have become verbs: Google, Xerox, Uber. The invitation is not, “do you want to join me in a Zoom Meeting,” but rather, “let’s Zoom.”

The latest unemployment figures, the highest since the Great Depression, show that about 15% of Americans are unemployed. Other than essential workers (health care, delivery, police, supermarkets), the rest have moved much (if not all) of our jobs online. We made this move in a matter of days without preparation. Many of us did it without any prior experience doing our jobs online.

Data from the Center’s new study with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” shows that moving our work lives online has been a success — particularly compared to other activities we have been compelled to move online, such as school work.  (more)

April 29, 2020 – Americans coping with the coronavirus are reporting changes in their lives occurring in days that previously took months or years, a wide-ranging study of life during the pandemic conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau has found.

The study shows Americans report many concerns about their lives as well as increased loneliness and anxiety since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, but they also describe strengthened relationships and enjoying the benefits of working at home.

Titled “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: How We are Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” the study also found significant percentages of Americans who had never previously banked online or bought from internet sources have now been pushed into the online experience because of the pandemic.

“We are exploring the biggest disruption of our lives,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Daily life is far more disrupted by the pandemic than after 9/11 or the beginning of World War II, and anxiety is at levels only seen after Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression.

“Yet in spite of the upheaval,” Cole said, “we also found that Americans have positive views about their relationships and hope for how their lives will proceed after the pandemic ends.”  (more)

February 19 — Many Americans are willing to make significant personal tradeoffs to lower their health insurance rates or medical costs, such as agreeing to 24/7 personal monitoring or working with artificial intelligence instead of a human doctor, according to a new study on the future of health care by the Center released today.  

The center’s  results on health insurance coverage mark the first findings in a series of six reports this year that will examine the future of medical care in the United States.  The second round will be released this spring.

For details about the study findings, see the release here.  For perspectives about disruption in health care, see the column by Jeffrey Cole below.

From the Center’s Future of  Health Care Study.

Infographic by Kelsey Dempsey.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

How quickly should one reply to a personal message received online? What is the appropriate length of time? And has the perceived appropriate length changed over the years?

We have asked this question in our Digital Future Survey since 2012… (more)

From the Center’s Future of Money and Banking Study.

Infographic by Ryan Robbins.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

The Center has published the tenth edition of World Internet Project report, the collaboration between the Center for the Digital Future and partner organizations in countries worldwide.

The 47-page study explores views and behavior about internet use and non-use, devices for internet access, years online, user proficiency, reasons for not going online, politics and the internet, freedom of expression online, media reliability, online security and personal privacy, and activities on the internet.

Download the tenth World Internet Project Report here.

The Center’s new 147-page “Surveying the Digital Future” report includes more than 100 issues that explore the impact of digital technology on American users and non-users.

New subjects in the study include views about using body-implanted chips for increased security, fake news, mainstream media, and regulation of social media.

Download the report here.

Nearly 60 percent of American banking customers would consider moving their money to accounts offered by familiar companies, such as online retailers, search engines, or big-box stores, even though they have no experience with financial services, according to a new study on the future of money and banking by the Center.

“We strongly believe banking is the next industry to be completely disrupted by digital change,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the center. “Our research shows customers are far ahead of the banks in looking to the web and apps as their preferred banking methods. Download the Future of Money and Banking Report here.

Center director Jeffrey Cole explores transformation of the media for the keynote address at the leadership meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

View the video here.