Political discussions during election season can be difficult to escape, from roundtables on our cable channels to comments in our social media feeds. But a fortnight from Election Day, many Americans are reporting that, at least online, they’d rather not talk about the election at all.
A new analysis published by Pew Research Center Tuesday showed that more than a third of American social media users are "worn out" by how much politics they see in their social media feeds, and more than 80 percent of social media users try to ignore political posts with which they disagree.
Some Americans surveyed said they took active steps to avoid seeing such posts at all, blocking people they disagreed with or limiting posts from those with different political opinions.
When they did interact with those posts, many Americans reported that it causes more distress and division than common understanding, according to the analysis. About six in 10 respondents said they found discussing politics online with someone who disagreed was ‘stressful and frustrating,’ compared to 35 percent who found it informative. A similar majority of users also reported concluding they had less in common politically than they thought with the people they debated with.
Overall, about half of Americans reported that discussions of politics on social media were less respectful and less likely to be resolved than discussions held elsewhere, and more than 80 percent of users said they believed — somewhat or strongly — that people said things on social media that they would never say in person.
Just 7 percent of respondents said social media debates were more civil than those elsewhere.
The national exhaustion with politics also wasn’t confined to one side of the aisle — both Republicans and Democrats reported being frustrated with political content in social media in similar degrees. People from both parties reported in nearly equal fractions — about 38 percent — that they found social media conversations about politics to be angrier and less civil, though Democrats were slightly more likely to praise social media as a new venue for underrepresented perspectives, according to the analysis.