Most of Us Aren’t Into Politics

For many obsessed with politics, the upcoming midterms are perceived as a fight between good and evil that will determine the fate of the nation. The narrative frames it as a fight between those who are convinced that President Trump can make America great and those who dream of a socialist future.

Fifty-four percent of Americans don’t fit into that narrative. Just 27 percent strongly disapprove of the president and believe things would have been better if Hillary Clinton had been elected. On the other side, 19 percent strongly approve of the president and believe things would be worse if Clinton were in the White House today. The rest have more mixed views.

This 8-point advantage among committed voters is the reason that Democrats are expected to do well in the midterms. In the House of Representatives, likely outcomes range from Democrats falling just short of winning control to a big blue wave earning a significant majority.

The final outcome may be determined by a group of voters that neither political team can begin to comprehend. Rather than see the 2016 election as a watershed event that changed the direction of the country, 26 percent of registered voters don’t believe life in America would have been all that different if Clinton had won. With Election Day just a couple of months away, most of these voters aren’t committed to voting for either side.

Like most Americans, these voters overwhelmingly recognize that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have had a bigger impact on the world than presidents of the United States. Perhaps their ambivalence about who is president simply reflects confidence in the belief that culture and technology lead while politicians lag behind.

Or perhaps it’s just a lack of faith in the political process. Only about 11 percent of them trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. Another possibility stems from the fact that 61 percent of these voters are ideologically moderate. They may be turned off by the shrill tones of activists from both teams.

These voters aren’t fans of the president’s; just 29 percent approve of the job he’s doing, and only 19 percent believe he is a good role model. But 45 percent believe he is at least as ethical as most politicians.

Their top concerns revolve around economic issues (32 percent), health care (22 percent), social issues (18 percent) and security issues (10 percent). Whatever their top concern is, however, 53 percent don’t have confidence in one major party or the other to address it. And they’re not connecting the concerns to the political process. Seventy-three percent talk about politics with family and friends less than once a week.

Much of the discord in the political process today stems from the inability of the obsessed to understand the majority of Americans. Often, it seems as if the politically engaged don’t even want to understand the rest of the country. This disconnect is a serious problem and we are committed to enhancing the public dialogue through data-driven analysis. With our partners at HarrisX, we will provide ongoing research and analysis with a particular focus on those who hold more nuanced views of the 21st-century political environment.