Thursday, December 1, 2016

How much is too much Politics?

By: Steve Scaffidi, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

One of the concepts I heard the most about during the latest political campaign was election fatigue. Most of us – at least those with landlines or who are still plugged in to cable TV or satellite – were bombarded with phone calls and ads extolling the virtues of a particular candidate. And most of the ads were at the expense of the other candidate who was depicted in, let's just say, unflattering terms.

As someone who works in the communications business, I appreciate the work and energy that goes into creating a campaign ad, and the incredible passion that agencies, and campaigns for that matter, have for their candidates. But on the other end is a public who has spent the greater part of a year – more than that if you live in Wisconsin and remember the recall – listening adnauseum to these ads to the point of mentally and physically unplugging to avoid them. And that means actually ignoring the phone and turning off the TV, a scary thought for the folks who spend millions of dollars putting these messages out there.

As recent headlines note, the election process continues on, and the candidates – both losers and winners – are showing no sign of stepping off the gas. There are continued discussions, recounts, and media appearances that are intent on keeping the focus on an election that, in the past, would have ended in November.

So, yes, the public has been, and probably will be for a while, fatigued and tired of what seems like an endless election cycle. Is there a benefit for society and our country in all of this? Are we more engaged? Not if you measure engagement by voting, which showed a slighter lower turnout in 2016, than in 2012.

But if you consider conversation and communication as part of an election engagement measurement, maybe so. Ratings for political shows on the networks broke ratings records, and if talk radio is any indicator, it was certainly on people's minds.

Can this saturation of politics be good for us? Only if it results in increased voter participation. Talking it out may make people feel good about their opinions, and that sometimes translates to a better sense of well-being, but elections still matter. Action still matters more than talking about doing something. At least if the people winning the elections actually listen to the folks who voted them in!

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