University of South Florida


University of South Florida researchers release findings from national COVID-19 opinion survey regarding online behaviors

A graphic rendering of the COVID-19 virus

Researchers with the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs, in partnership with Cyber Florida at the University of South Florida, have released the third set of results from a nationwide opinion survey regarding COVID-19.

This final portion of the survey measures how the pandemic has affected Americans’ online behaviors and digital reliance.

Among the key findings:

COVID-19 has led to an increase in online shopping for most Americans, and a majority say they will continue shopping this way even when the pandemic is over. A significant number of respondents have begun shopping online “more often” for groceries (37%), meals (40%), household items (46%) and clothing (36%), while 44% did more of their holiday shopping online. Among those respondents, a majority (53%) said that they will continue shopping the way they have during the pandemic, even after it is over.

Many Americans plan on continuing to work from home after the pandemic ends. Nearly a third of respondents report having transitioned to working from home at least part time during the pandemic (30%). Among them, two-thirds (68%) anticipate continuing to work from home at least part time once the pandemic is over. Those in households earning more than $100,000 per year were substantially more likely to report transitioning to work from home during the pandemic.

For many Americans, videoconferencing will remain a key means of connectivity even after the pandemic. Nearly half of respondents (48%) report using videoconferencing tools such as Skype and Zoom “more often” during the pandemic to “stay connected with friends and family”. Among them, three-quarters (74%) say that they “will continue using videoconferencing to stay connected with friends and family” once the pandemic is over.

Nearly one in seven Americans has experienced some sort of cyber victimization during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just more than 15% of respondents reported experiencing at least one type of cyber victimization since the pandemic started, including having banking or financial information stolen (8%), having their social media accounts accessed without permission (8%), and having someone gain access to a work-related videoconferencing call without permission (5%).

COVID-related online scams were fairly common. Roughly 5% of respondents reported having someone attempt to steal their federal stimulus check, while 13% encountered “phishing scams” that used COVID-19 as a ploy to gather their personal information.

Online usage has been high among older Americans during the pandemic. Roughly one third of those over 55 years old began shopping online more often for groceries, household items, clothing, and holiday items. Roughly 40% of those 55 and older have begun using videoconferencing to stay connected with family and friends as well.

The survey included a representative sample of 1,003 voting-age Americans, fielded Jan. 9-12, 2021. Results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/- 3%.

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