“Most people are planning to stockpile,” said Julio Sevilla, associate marketing professor at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. “Mostly it’s because it’s getting colder and we’re getting more cases. People know what happened at the beginning of the pandemic — stuff started to run out, in part because some products are being used more.”

The United States set a record for new coronavirus cases averaged over a seven-day period earlier this week, with nearly 69,000 people testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. Infections are up in 41 states, including election battlegrounds like Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“There’s a broad swath of the American public that’s really aware of what’s going on with infection rates. What we see then is that worry and concern amongst the public follows hospitalization most closely,” said Beth Redbird, assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University.

“We were most worried in about mid-April, that’s when we hit our peak of worry. We declined slightly through the summer and then we rebounded a little bit in the second wave period,” added Redbird, who leads the COVID-19 Social Change Survey, which has been polling the same group of 8,000 people online since March to monitor behaviors throughout the pandemic.

The most worried demographic, she said, are women.

“They’re worried about the pandemic more but they’re also worried about the economic consequences and the election more,” Redbird said. “The most worried group is women who have caretaking responsibilities. And, in general, women tend to bear the responsibility for shopping in the family.”

Emotions over Election Day are running high and Americans are worried that street protests could erupt once the results are announced, or if the winner isn’t known for days or weeks. Questions over what happens if President Trump loses and refuses to concede have loomed for months, raising concerns that there might not be a peaceful transfer of power if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins.

Sevilla predicts the percentage of Americans who are stockpiling in order to avoid election chaos is under 30 percent.

“There’s not necessarily the insecurity about if there will be an issue with the election but insecurity about the outcome,” he said.

He also noted the lasting effect of seeing shelves bare at the grocery store.

“During the pandemic, we’ve been seeing stockpiling, so we have the social proof component and we have a lot of scarcity. There’s nothing that makes people buy more than seeing the shelf empty,” Sevilla said.

Suppliers have said they’re confident they can meet demand heading into November, but that confidence isn’t trickling down to all consumers.

Redbird said her research has found that half of Americans say they don’t have enough food because they can’t afford groceries, while the other half say they can’t find items at the store.

“It reinforced the whole year that there is some underlying level of scarcity and that creates some level of uncertainty. That creates a level of, ‘I’m worried now and this has been a problem all year so I’m just going to buy,’ ” she said.

Source: The Hill