Amid the backdrop of the US culture war that dominates the news cycle is an increasingly divided America, where seemingly all issues have become partisan ones. Over the past two years, Forrester has been tracking consumer attitudes by political affiliation. Our data corroborates a broadening polarization, where it’s more the exception rather than the norm to see agreement parity among both liberal and conservative consumers. One of those exceptions, however, is about the economic outlook.

While the US culture war widens the partisan divide, fears of a recession transcend political party affiliation. Fresh data from Forrester’s July 2022 Consumer Energy Index And Retail Pulse Survey shows universal pessimism towards the outlook of the US economy — regardless of one’s politics.

Most US Online Adults Expect A Recession Within The Next Year

Expectations and fears of a recession pervade consumer sentiment: Sixty-one percent of US online adults agree that the US will experience a formal recession within the next year (60% liberals and 68% conservatives). Similarly, 64% feel anxious over the possibility of a recession (65% liberals and 72% conservatives). And less than a quarter (24%) of US online adults feel positive about the economy (28% liberals and 23% conservatives), while 75% feel anxious about inflation.

Consumers Brace For Decreased Spending In The Back Half Of 2022

Pessimism about the US economy will negatively affect consumer spending: 54% of US online adults plan to pull back on their spending for the remainder of 2022 (55% liberals and 53% conservatives). This intent is stronger among generations with the most buying power: Only 36% of Baby Boomers plan to decrease spend, yet 64% of Gen X and 62% of Millennials intend to do so. As my colleague Anjali Lai blogged about last month, consumers are prepared to pull back on discretionary spend first while stocking up on essentials.

Current Economic Turbulence Is Like A Tale Of Two “Brands”

These dynamics have marketers mired in scenario planning, and for good reason: While headlines about layoffs and ad spend cuts are rampant, they’re counterbalanced with news of record profits and marketing budget increases. At least for now, your industry, product, and consumer base determine whether your company is negatively or positively impacted — or somewhere in between. As economic conditions continue to fluctuate, marketers find themselves in a constant cycle of planning for all types of scenarios.

Be on the lookout for three new reports that will publish in the coming weeks — each tackling in-depth guidance for B2C marketers navigating the current economic uncertainty:

  1. Planning Guide 2023: B2C Marketing Executives. Our planning guide helps B2C marketing executives during their annual budgeting and prioritization cycles — providing relevant benchmark data and investment recommendations.
  2. The CMO’s Primer To Managing Growth During A Downturn. This report examines the marketing levers that CMOs can activate to manage growth during an economic downturn based on five consumer purchase scenarios.
  3. Marketing To Consumers During Economic Turbulence. This report takes a deep dive into consumers’ economic outlook, the evolution of attitudes toward financial preparedness, and what consumers are looking for from marketers.

Tweet me your thoughts at @McProulx. Forrester clients: Let’s chat more about this data via a Forrester guidance session.