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Can’t touch this: how the pandemic changed Northwesterners’ behaviors

December 14, 2021 by PEMCO Insurance
 As another pandemic-filled year comes to an end, Northwest residents are reflecting on how their lives looked before the pandemic and what’s changed since it began. According to the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance, many say they’ll embrace COVID-induced behaviors even after the pandemic ends, while others say they’ll miss aspects of pandemic life once the world returns to normal.

At the top of the list, more than half say they don’t plan on reaching over for a bite off their friends’ plates – the poll finds that 54% agree that sharing food or drinks with others outside their household is a no-go now and into the future. Following closely behind, nearly half of Northwesterners (49%) say they aren’t keen on touching well-used surfaces, like elevator buttons or handrails, either.

The poll also finds that fist bumps and elbow taps could become the new greeting in businesses and beyond as 46% of respondents say they don’t plan to reintroduce handshakes into their post-pandemic lives.

While the poll found that some pandemic-related behaviors are here to stay, Northwest residents say they’ll mourn the loss of others once the pandemic is over. The most cited change residents will miss is the ability to wear more comfortable clothes, skipping more formal outfits for casual wear, perhaps in response to working from home and foregoing social gatherings. Related, one-third of residents (33%) say they aren’t looking forward to losing flexibility in how they balance their schedules once the pandemic ends, the poll found.

“It’s hard to imagine what life will be like once we’re not fully focused on COVID-19, but it’s safe to say that some aspects of our daily lives will be impacted for the long haul,” said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. “While the pandemic has created hardships for many of us, it’s interesting to see that there are certain things many of us are embracing about COVID living, too.”

The poll shows that residents’ likelihood to welcome long-term changes depends on age. While a majority of residents in Seattle and Portland say they’ll avoid hugging others now and post-pandemic, residents 55 years and older are even more likely to restrain. In Seattle, 47% of those 55 years and older say they’ll avoid hugs while only 34% of those under age 55 said the same. In Portland, the same findings ring true, as 51% of residents 55 years and older say they’ll steer clear of hugs, while only 32% of residents 54 years and younger said the same.

The poll also explored the popular pandemic trend of learning new skills or picking up hobbies during the pandemic when folks were spending more time at home, but PEMCO found the majority of Northwest residents didn’t use the extra time to pursue any new talent or pastime. In fact, 58% of Seattleites and 62% of Portlanders say they didn’t pick up a new hobby or skill during the height of the pandemic.

However, younger residents – those 35 years and younger – were more likely to pursue a pandemic-related resolution compared to their older counterparts. Exactly half of residents 35 years and younger chose to pursue a new hobby or skill, while only 31% of those older than 35 did the same.

Those that did pursue a new hobby or skill were largely successful. Of them, more than three-quarters of residents (83%) say they were at least somewhat successful in achieving their pandemic-related resolution and 95% of Seattleites and Portlanders say they’re at least somewhat likely to continue their newfound hobby.

For a complete summary of PEMCO’s proprietary poll results visit, where you’ll find responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in August 2021.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Mutual Insurance commissioned this independent survey, conducted by FBK Research of Seattle, that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 420 respondents in the Seattle Metro (King, Snohomish, Pierce Counties) region and 418 respondents in the Portland Metro (Multnomah, Marion, Clackamas, Washington Counties) region yields an accuracy of +/- 5.0% respectively at the 95% confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range. 

About PEMCO Mutual Insurance
PEMCO Mutual Insurance is the Defender of Your Northwest, providing auto, home, renters and boat coverage. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Insurance Companies 2022 with the #1 ranking in Auto, we are consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee expertise and social impact. Our Mutual Good programs raise the achievement levels for youth in education; build stronger, greener communities; and increase safety at home, on the road and at play. Our mission: Free our communities to worry less and live more.

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