The Pulse: It’s the Holiday Season

The Pulse of the American Consumer is focused on continued insight into consumer sentiments for businesses across all industries.


Americans chimed in on how they plan to celebrate the holiday season – from what their favorite Thanksgiving dishes are to shopping preferences and upcoming travel plans. They also gave insight into how they feel about the effects of current societal issues like COVID-19, product shortages and inflation. In order for businesses to have the most success connecting with their consumers, they have to understand them – what they are interested in, what they need, and how they feel. At ENGINE, we have the real-time pulse of the consumer, today, and always. Throughout 2021, we will be offering weekly insights through identifying important data points and trends from the voice of the consumer.


KEY FINDINGS AS OF October 31, 2021:

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The Pulse of the American Consumer v40 pt 1
The Pulse of the American Consumer v40 pt 2

If you would like more information on ENGINE CARAVAN surveys, contact us below:

At ENGINE, we will be keeping up with the pulse of the consumer throughout 2021, and are regularly running our CARAVAN surveys on current social issues. Contact us at for more information or for the full CARAVAN survey findings.

This Online CARAVAN® omnibus surveys were conducted on January 8-10, January 15-17, January 22-24, January 29-31, February 5-7, February 12-14,  February 19-21, February 26-28, March 5-7, March 12-14, March 19-21, March 26-28, April 2-4, April 9-11, April 16-18, April 23-25, April 30-May 2, May 7-9, May 14-16, May 21-23, June 2-6, June 11-13, June 18-20, June 25-27, July 9-11, July 16-18, July 23-25, July 30-August 1,  August 6-8, August 13-15, August 20-22, August 27-29, September 10-12, September 17-19, September 24-26, October 1-3, October 8-10, October 15-17, October 22-24, and October 29-31, 2021. Approximately 1,000 adults selected from opt-in panels were surveyed. The results are also weighted to U.S. Census data to be demographically representative.

Written by the CARAVAN team at ENGINE Insights.

The Pulse of the American Consumer

Consumer Insights for Business

Turkey, mashed potatoes, Black Friday, and the many unknowns (COVID-19, inflation, product shortages) of this holiday season are all on the minds of Americans this week.

Gain insight on these issues and more in this week’s The Pulse of the American Consumer.

It’s the Holiday Season

November is officially upon us, so with matters such as back-to-school and Halloween now in the rear-view mirror, all focus is on the holiday season of 2021.

However, with each week the lingering question remains: Are we going to be able to fully enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year”, or are other factors beyond even COVID-19 going to be a collective Grinch this season?

95% of U.S. Adults plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year — and they’re going to be piling on a full plate! The most popular menu items include:

  • 78% Turkey
  • 71% Mashed Potatoes
  • 68% Stuffing
  • 65% Rolls
  • 58% Pumpkin Pie
  • 51% Sweet Potatoes
  • 48% Cranberry Sauce
  • 41% Green Bean Casserole
  • 39% Macaroni and Cheese
  • 9% Non-turkey meat alternative

To what extent do you agree or disagree with these statements?

*Demographic differences are based on Agree (Net).

  • All the current unknowns (COVID-19, inflation, product shortages) are making this holiday season more stressful than usual
    • 61% Agree [Net]
    • 22% Strongly Agree
  • I’m worried my Black Friday traditions will be disrupted this year because of supply chain/available inventory 
    • 51% Agree [Net]
      • 53% Gen Z
      • 61% Millennials
      • 51% Gen X
      • 43% Baby Boomers
    • 20% Strongly Agree
  • Because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns, this year I am less likely to shop in stores during Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday)
    • 48% Agree [Net]
      • 57% Gen Z
      • 52% Millennials
      • 42% Gen X
      • 45% Baby Boomers
    • 21% Strongly Agree
  • The increased cost and/or availability of products is causing me to rethink my plans for Thanksgiving
    • 44% Agree [Net]
    • 16% Strongly Agree
  • I’m worried my Black Friday traditions will be disrupted this year because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions
    • 38% Agree [Net]
      • 52% Gen Z
      • 44% Millennials
      • 34% Gen X
      • 30% Baby Boomers
    • 15% Strongly Agree
  • I’m concerned I won’t have purchased everything I need to before Thanksgiving
    • 37% Agree [Net]
      • 48% Gen Z
      • 47% Millennials
      • 30% Gen X
      • 30% Baby Boomers
    • 15% Strongly Agree
  • I have had to buy holiday gifts sooner this year with Hanukkah being earlier (11/28 – 12/6)
    • 24% Agree [Net]
      • 42% Gen Z
      • 33% Millennials
      • 21% Gen X
      • 13% Baby Boomers
    • 10% Strongly Agree
  • I also plan to celebrate Hanukkah at my Thanksgiving feast this year
    • 19% Agree [Net]
      • 34% Gen Z
      • 28% Millennials
      • 17% Gen X
      • 9% Baby Boomers
    • 8% Strongly Agree

89% of Americans plan to celebrate Christmas this year — 39% of which will travel for the holiday. Of those who plan to travel, the most used forms of transportation will include:

  • 85% Car
  • 14% Plane
  • 6% Train
  • 5% Bus

Still, the impact of COVID-19 remains relevant in celebrating the holidays. Of the 22% of U.S. Adults who plan to change some of their Christmas traditions this year, 82% say COVID-19 has some impact:

  • 31% A lot
  • 51% A little

A Brief COVID-19 Update

As the outlook on the pandemic continues to improve across the U.S., is life returning to “normal” a given? …Or is there a lingering “lack of kindness and civility pandemic” that may now be standing in the way of a true and lasting recovery?

Recent reports indicate that new COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are once again on the decline across the country. Knowing this, to what extent do you agree or disagree with these statements?

*Demographic differences are based on ‘Very Concerned’.
*Comparisons are made from October 15-17, 2021, based on ‘Concerned [Net]’

  • I can’t wait to go back to places like movie theaters, shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, concerts, and sporting events as often as I used to
    • 74% Concerned [Net]
    • 35% Very Concerned
      • 43% Republicans
      • 29% Democrats
  • Pandemic or not, if people are not kinder to one another it is just not worth the trouble to go out in the public as often as I used to
    • 69% Concerned [Net] (-4% Change)
    • 32% Very Concerned
  • It is great to see that COVID cases are declining, but I am concerned about being out in the public due to an increasing lack of civility among society
    • 67% Concerned [Net] (-4% change)
    • 27% Very Concerned
      • 19% Republicans
      • 35% Democrats
  • Even when COVID is no longer a regular concern, I still plan to follow safety measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing in my daily life
    • 59% Concerned [Net] (-5% change)
    • 25% Very Concerned
      • 29% Republicans
      • 33% Democrats
  • Even with a steady decline in cases, I’m not sure I will ever be comfortable resuming the lifestyle I was used to prior to the pandemic
    • 55% Concerned [Net] (-6% change)
    • 22% Very Concerned
      • 16% Republicans
      • 28% Democrats
  • I am confident that life is finally returning to what it was before the pandemic began
    • 51% Concerned [Net] (-3% change)
    • 16% Very Concerned