State Policy Network
Polling Spotlight: Politics is an Afterthought for Most Americans 

Erin Norman is the Lee Family Fellow and Senior Director of Communications Strategies at State Policy Network

If you follow political news closely, it may be difficult to believe that most Americans don’t put politics and policy at the center of their interactions with others. Inside DC, and its various publications and social media channels, all talk is focused on the ultimate “will-he-or-won’t-he” drama surrounding Biden’s campaign after a disastrous debate performance. 

But polling data and research consistently show that politics is an afterthought to most Americans. According to Gallup just 32% of Americans closely follow national politics, a number which has fallen in the years since the pandemic.  

More than Half of Voters Have Stopped Talking About Politics Because It’s Too Divisive 

And those who do pay attention may not be discussing politics with others in their lives. A recent SPN poll finds that over half of voters (56%) have stopped talking about politics and policy with friends and family because it is too divisive, a feeling that is shared by people of all political affiliations.  

Additional data from Pew Research Center shows that fewer than one-in-five Americans discuss political topics with family or close friends. Instead, people in the US talk about what’s going on in the lives of their friends and family members, including their jobs or schooling. Twice as many Americans talk about popular culture (movies and music) than talk about politics.  

One key nuance is that nearly three in 10 Americans talk about problems facing the country with friends and family. However, that does not seem to directly correspond to “politics.” It seems Americans are more likely to discuss the problems they see in the country, and likely their desired solutions as well, without it feeling political. 

Policy Organizations Should Discuss Key Issues Without a ‘Political’ Framing 

This subtle difference is one worth exploring. If Americans have an interest in talking about the issues and problems facing the country, but shy away from discussing politics, policy advocates must find ways to discuss key issues, and their fixes, outside of current “political” terminology. This will ensure that policy continues to move forward even in contentious times when Americans are shying away from political discussions. 

Organization: State Policy Network