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?