a look back

The 20 Data Points That Defined 2020

Morning Consult’s reporters and editors choose the figures that best illustrate a year like no other

(Morning Consult Illustration by Vladimir Gorshkov)
December 23, 2020 at 12:01 am ET

The pandemic made 2020 a year of charts, defining the year at the onset with the data-driven mantra “flatten the curve,” as the country looked to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year, Americans had to take stock of their lives and rethink how they eat, shop, socialize, live and vote. To help make sense of our new reality, Morning Consult fielded more than 200 public opinion polls to ask more than 440,000 respondents about their thoughts on the presidential election, what they were streaming at home and their comfort levels with returning to normal life, among other topics. 

From the more than 4,000 questions we fielded, we highlight below the figures that we think defined this year of data.

1) 52%: The share of likely voters who said they would vote for President-elect Joe Biden in Morning Consult’s final pre-election survey. Biden would ultimately garner 51.3 percent of the vote — the largest share for a challenger since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 — en route to victory. 

2) 74%: The percentage of U.S. adults who say things in the country “have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans said the country was headed in the right direction.

3) 14%: The share of respondents who mentioned the name “Trump” when asked to identify their biggest concern for the 2020 election. Of those who mentioned something about partisanship, 64 percent said something negative about the president.

4) 70%: The share of voters who said the Democratic Party is “liberal,” up 12 percentage points from four years ago. In a similar reflection of the perceived polarization of the country’s major parties, 69 percent of voters described the Republican Party as “conservative,” up 14 points from 2016. 

5) +15: The percentage-point increase in brand growth exhibited by Zoom, the video conferencing platform. Only one other brand, Peacock, grew by double digits.

6) 56%: The share of U.S. adults who said they would get vaccinated for COVID-19. A quarter of Americans surveyed said they would not get the vaccine:

7) 45%: The percentage of U.S. adults who said they would be more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine if Dr. Anthony Fauci encouraged it. If government officials are looking for the next Elvis Presley, who was the face of the polio vaccine, they should turn to the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Among the pop culture contenders: Michelle Obama, Bill Gates, Tom Hanks, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson” and Dolly Parton.

8) 62%: The share of voters who support the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health law. That level of backing, measured in September, was up 7 percentage points from the first quarter of the year.

9) 86.57: Morning Consult’s most recent Index of Consumer Sentiment reading. That’s down from 114.38 at the beginning of the year. 

10) 75%: The share of voters who heard “a lot” about Kobe Bryant’s death. The tragedy in January was 2020’s top news event in terms of public awareness, though nearly as many (73 percent) reported hearing a lot about the killing of George Floyd.

11) 25%: The share of the public who in early December still hadholiday travel plans this year, down from 35% two months prior. Similarly, 26 percent of U.S. adults said in October that they planned to travel in November, but just 14 percent actually did when asked later. 

12) 25%: The percentage of the public that on average currently feels comfortable doing a number of leisure activities, from dining out to going to the mall. Comfort levels have not changed dramatically in recent months, but the vaccine will likely turn the tide. 

13) 55%: The share of adults who said the tech sector has “a lot” of power in the United States, the third-highest share among a list of 12 sectors. Roughly one-third (34 percent) of the public said there was “not enough regulation” targeting the tech industry on both the federal and state levels.

14) 25%: The percentage of social media users who have heard of QAnon that believe the group’s conspiracy theories are at least somewhat accurate. Twelve percent said they have either engaged with or posted about QAnon content in a positive way. 

15) 44%: The share of Gen Z adults who watch Disney+ at least once a week, along with 42 percent of millennials, roughly one year after its launch. One analyst said nostalgia has driven interest among these viewers, along with a pandemic-induced interest in streaming. 

16) 62%: The percentage of NBA fans who supported the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to take the court for a playoff game in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Leagues, teams and athletes alike embraced the Black Lives Matter movement in the latter half of 2020. 

17) 39%: The share of Gen Zers who never watch sports, compared to 28 percent of all adults and 20 percent of millennials. Just over half (53 percent) of Gen Zers identify as sports fans, compared to 63 percent of all adults and 69 percent of millennials. 

18) 57%: The percentage of Gen Zers who think climate change’s progression is inevitable. Forty-nine percent say it can be slowed down but not stopped, and 8 percent say the phenomenon is beyond our control. 

19) 61%: The share of Hispanic adults who are “very” or “extremely” concerned about the impact of local pollution on themselves and their family, friends and community members. Black and Hispanic adults worry about pollution at higher rates than white adults: 56 percent of Black adults and 39 percent of white adults said the same. 

20) +9: Joshua Dial’s net favorability, or the share of people who viewed the “Tiger King” cast member favorably minus the share who viewed him unfavorably. Dial had the highest net favorability rating among adults who watched the hit Netflix docuseries, followed by Joe Exotic. 

Cameron Easley contributed.

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