Shutdown, Obamacare driving holiday shopping online?

A survey suggests that the thought of yet more political crisis is driving more people to go online and spend less this holiday season.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Good for online businesses? WorldSiteGuides/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Politics has become tiresome.

Alright, it was always tiresome, but when 24-hour cable news came along, we got to hear of every little detail and reached for extra doses of our calming medicine.

It seems, though, that one of the consequences of constant political upheaval has been to drive more people to shop online this holiday season.

A survey has been placed before my exclusive eyes. It was performed by Harris Interactive, on behalf of cloud testing company SOASTA (pronounced like "toaster", sadly, rather than like "Zoroaster").

In it, a fulsome 44 percent of people insisted that concerns about the default, government shutdowns, budget battles, and the Obamacare Web site mess would drive them to do their holiday shopping online.

You might imagine that the idea of a malfunctioning Web site driving people online might be a touch twisted. But 77 percent in the survey pleaded for all online shopping companies to test their sites thoroughly -- or at least declare when they were last tested -- before the holiday storm strikes. (Well, naturally.)

There might seem something woolly, though, about using politics as an excuse for online shopping. Well, these respondents admitted that the reason they will shop online is that they believe there are more and better deals there.

Nineteen percent, though, just don't want to spend their money on gas.

Few companies have done much to make physical retail environments more exciting. Some use floral scents, smiling faces, and fetching polo shirts, but going shopping just isn't what it used to be.

Still, I wasn't convinced that the populace has such great political awareness. Harris Interactive stared me down.

The company's SVP of Poll and Public Relations, Regina Corso, told me: "It's a savings issue. People are worried about what Washington is doing and that they are going to do it again."

I wouldn't dream of suggesting that perhaps these politicians are receiving vast donations from online shopping companies to keep on creating such uncertainty. Corso, for her part, pointed a knowing finger at, well, the media.

"The media has made it clear that the shutdown could occur in January and the debt ceiling fight is going to happen again right afterwards in February. And that's when Americans are doing one of the things they hate the most -- paying off their holiday debt," she said.

This might have implications for Black Friday and the traditional holiday fisticuffs at Walmart.

Corso told me: "If they used to spend Black Friday and/or that weekend driving from mall to mall, this year they definitely might limit that. And, it's easier to comparison shop and find the best deals online, so of course they may do that as well where they wouldn't have in previous years."

So what about Obamacare? It's being blamed for everything from unemployment to the unrest at the Miami Dolphins.

"Many people were promised cheaper health insurance. There is a lot of concern that those promises are being broken. Whether that actually happens or not is another story, but the perception is out there that some might lose insurance and have to look elsewhere or pay more for it," Corso said.

So if you're working at the mall this holiday season and things don't seem as busy as they used to, you know whom you'll be able to blame.

Still, if you're idling your hours at the Gap or Bloomingdale's, you know how you can pass the time.

Get on the office computer and do your holiday shopping online.