Thursday, October 01, 2009

Who cares about politics?

Apparently quite a few of us. According to the Gallop organization, attention to political news is currently higher and more widespread in this non-Presidential year than at any time since they began charting this in 2001. As is almost always the case, Republicans consume more news than others, which makes sense since being male, older and better off almost always correlates with paying attention.

Nate Silver points out that this measure doesn't necessarily indicate who will win elections. Democrats may not have been paying as much attention as Republicans in 2006, but they won new majorities in both houses of Congress, quite a feat.


I look at this graphic and have several thoughts:
  • Lots of people from a lot of perspectives feel they need something from government at the moment. Just as there are probably few atheists in foxholes (does anyone still know what that metaphor means?), there are few go-it-alone individualists during a financial meltdown and severe recession. The overall higher level of attention might have something to do with this.
  • For the privileged, that's a scary thought -- hence the high degree of Republican attention.
  • The recent Presidential campaign was cathartic national theaterpiece; we ended up with a President who understands he's enacting a national morality play and sometimes intentionally generates attention accordingly. Even people who didn't and don't like the outcome of that theatrical election may be hooked on the adrenaline surge.
  • The group whose attention is down are Democrats. Democrats may be paying less attention because they are still breathing a huge sigh of relief that the Bush regime is gone.
  • Similarly, when I help groups organize campaigns, I always stress that most people aren't paying attention to politics and don't want to. They'll only work on it if they feel their survival depends on doing so. And they don't want to be drawn into a perpetual series of fights. This creates a high hurdle for community groups trying to build a base through political campaigning. They have to cast a wide net to find a small number of stalwarts they can incorporate for the long term. I think Democrats may be learning that lesson in this season. Most people get tired of political fights and need periodic seasons away from the fray. Can the Democrats get their attention again?
Democrats have certainly been trying to get the attention of some of us in the last few days. If you donated to any Democratic campaign last year, you've probably heard in the last week from the alphabet soup of party committees -- DNC, DSCC, DCCC -- as well individual Democratic office holders trying to round up campaign cash at the end of a reporting period. Media reporting a few days ago said small donor contributions were way down. We'll know when the campaign reports come out whether the parties have been able to goose up interest in the last few hyper-active soliciting days.

We're acting paradoxically -- overall, we're both more interested than ever -- and yearning for a political off-season that will never come.

1 comment:

Nora Leah said...

It's astounding how Republicans can consume so much news and yet have no idea what's really going on in the world. Fox News is the Twinkies of the supermarket.