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Tuning Out: Americans on the Edge of Politics

Originally published by Pew Research Center

In a fractious political environment often dominated by the loudest voices on the left and right, some people are saying: Count us out.

Last year, we talked to a group of people who, while they may vote, are not strongly attached to either political party. They don’t closely follow news about politics or government, though some feel guilty when they don’t. By and large, they look at the nation’s politics as a topic better avoided than embraced.

With the first votes of the 2024 election about to be cast, these are people whose voices are largely overlooked. Last May, we conducted six focus groups of adults who have soured on politics and political news. Here’s what they told us:

They have a sense that politics is everywhere – and often in a bad way. They find themselves overwhelmed by how much information they confront in their day-to-day life.

Many – but not all – of these people vote. While they acknowledge they could be more engaged with following politics, many say they have no desire to, or say it’s important to avoid the topic to protect their mental health.

Most are frustrated with the two parties. They often don’t feel represented by either party or feel that the parties are too extreme. And while some would prefer for there to be no parties at all, others wish there were more than two.

Many of the participants pointed to the vitriol and negativity in politics today, noting that there is too much fighting and not enough progress being made on issues that are important to everyday people.

How would these people change politics? Their ideas run the gamut: While some discussed changes to the Electoral College, term limits or reducing the role of money in politics, others said they simply would like more choices, less negativity and more progress on important issues.

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