I encountered yet another interesting study from Pew Research.  This time, it’s about how well we’ve learned to shut up around people with whom we disagree on politics.

A majority (62%) of Republicans and Republican leaners in counties that went very strongly for Donald Trump in the general election (those where his share of the two-party vote was at least 40 percentage points greater than Hillary Clinton’s) said that when these disagreements happened, it was better to try to find common ground. In counties that Trump won less resoundingly, or those where Clinton prevailed, Republicans were less likely to seek common ground on politics and more likely to prefer to avoid talking about differences, according to the national survey conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 12 among 4,138 adults on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

A similar pattern was evident among Democrats and Democratic leaners: 59% of those living in counties where Clinton defeated Trump by 40 points or more said it was better to address political differences, while 40% it was better to avoid talking about these differences.   Among Democrats in strong Trump counties, opinion was almost the reverse: 61% said it was better to avoid raising political differences while just 39% said it was better to talk about them.

This is really intriguing to me.  Essentially, those of us who don’t hang around with a lot of people who disagree with us are perfectly willing to agree on how important it is to find “common ground” on politics.  Those of us who are surrounded by them know better and clamp our mouths shut.

No wonder you guys hang out here.

What does this mean?  It seems as if there are Americans walking around everyday of their lives, feeling as if they’re living in enemy-occupied territory.  They don’t dare speak out; remaining on guard and always ready to segue any political question to sports.  Or they throw a flash-bang and flee.  I don’t know what they do.

I’m one of those people who lives in a “purple” county.  It went for Trump by a little bit over 50%.  He beat Clinton by about 9 points and the rest went third party.  And as I’ve mentioned before, I generally don’t discuss politics with anyone in person unless I know them well and we pretty much agree on everything.  Yeah, I’m the opposite irl of how I am on here.

We all find this to be true.  I think when we’re usually in the company of people who generally agree with us, it’s easy to assume that political discussions are always civil.  Most of us know that they’re not.

Funny story.  A few years ago, my employer had some big screen televisions set up in the dining area.  There were three and you’d usually have one or two turned to cable news and another on ESPN or what have you.

Well, the televisions became an issue when they were turned to cable news.  People complained.  Half of the complainers were upset when Fox News was on and the other half didn’t want to watch CNN or MSNBC.  There was a stunning amount of bickering among these professional, college-educated adults.  One guy even tried to break into the server cabinet that the remote control was kept in so he could change the channel.

At first, the facilities manager (who had control over the televisions for some reason) tried to reason with everyone by decreeing that for one month, the televisions would be on Fox News and on the next month, CNN or MSNBC.  It didn’t work.  The complaints intensified.  Ultimately, the exasperated facilities manager gave up and just turned on Court TV, ESPN, and ESPN2 and then locked the remote control in his desk.

So yeah, I know better than to discuss politics with anyone around here.

Another noteworthy aspect of this study is how segregated we are from those with different viewpoints.  We generally choose to live and hang out among the like-minded.  Seriously, what do you expect us to do?  We can’t talk to each other.

The biggest surprise to me in this poll is how many voters had zero personal friends who voted for “the other” candidate.  It was more pronounced among Democrats, but present on both sides:

That really does surprise me and confirms one of my worst suspicions about the 2016 Election.  We’ve lost the ability to be friends…or even friendly when politics comes up for discussion.

What about you?  How did your county vote, how willing are you to discuss politics with neighbors, and how many of your friends voted the way you did?

7 comments

  1. It seems as if there are Americans walking around everyday of their lives, feeling as if they’re living in enemy-occupied territory.

    This is where I find myself most of the time with family. Getting verbally gang-raped over some asshole’s tweets is outside of what my brain can compute anymore. Vacations and holidays full of shouting matches have soured me on discussing politics. My personality is such that it is difficult to refrain from pointing out criminal stupidity so it is best to just zip it. I used to enjoy political debate but it is no longer a learning experience and it only offers me suffering and ill feeling towards people that I might not have around me for much longer.

    One on one, I will discuss issues only to the extent that they stay friendly or at least in good faith. Over the years I have developed triggers that will automatically put me in filter-free bitch mode, where I say absolutely horrible things.

  2. I am the same irl as I am here. I don’t get into involved political debates at work, which is where I interact with most of the Trump voters in my life. We are all very friendly, but they definitely know my political views and we trade friendly jabs. I’ve been told they pray for me.
    I don’t know for a fact that any of my *friends* actually voted for Trump. If they have, they are not open about it. There are people in my family and some acquaintances who voted for Trump. My county went 66% for Clinton, but that includes the city of Detroit. There were definitely Trump signs on the lawns here.

    The types of people who think Trump is an honest man and a financial genius and will do great things for this country come from such a different baseline from where I am that they were not going to be friends with me before this election ever started. It would be like being friends with an anti-vaxxer. We are likely to disagree about a lot more than just the issue at hand.
    Most of the Trump voters I know were single issue voters (Muslim ban, Israel support or Hillary hatred.) I generally just ignore their FB posts and avoid debates in person. I’ve never defriended anyone on FB or irl. I’ve been defriended by several (surprise!)
    Then there are the people who see Trump for what he is, but might have voted for him or Johnson or sat this one out because of some policy positions. I think debating with people like this is fun and I do it irl. In fact that’s how I spent inauguration night – sitting in a bar in DC with friends, yelling at each other about the election.

  3. I feel that. I’m sick of discussing politics too, which is why my major focus these days is on finding out how normal people are affected by what’s going on rather than which side is winning or losing on particular issues.

    If I wanted to get worked up over bullshit, I’d become a sports fan.

  4. Strangely, the last time I discussed politics with someone I disagreed with, it was with two pro-Trump Republicans over a year ago. I was explaining why I was backing Cruz against Trump. It was perfectly civil, but again, we were all coming from the same side of the aisle.

    Knowing how bent out of shape all of my progressive friends and family members are, I don’t say anything political around them unless asked. Thankfully, they’ve left me alone.

  5. There were more Trump signs than Clinton ones in my area, but then again nobody here really liked her, and West Virginia has traditionally been Democratic at least where the unions are concerned.

  6. Honestly i haven’t had a problem, disusing trump. Even when i was backing Cruz and calling trump Hillerys Stalking Horse. i had no issues with co-workers and family.
    Though i dont go about in public trying to drum up conversation with people on politics, unless i see something that tells me they are like minded.
    Back in its heyday , it was easy to strike up a talk with Teaparty/libertarian types, the evidence of their political tastes were pretty obvious.

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