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The Most Important Number in Politics Today



People are paying close attention to political news, according to a new Gallup poll. AP Photo/Nati Harnik

36

That's the percentage of Americans who say they are following national political news "very closely", the highest off-year number since Gallup began asking the question in 2001.

Back in 2007 that number stood at 30 percent and in 2005 -- the last off-year election without a national presidential contest year in the offing -- just more than one in four Americans (28 percent) said they were following national political news closely.

The increase in attentiveness is largely the result of Republicans and, to a lesser extent, Independents, ratcheting up their interest in political news.

Back in 2005, just 26 percent of Republicans said they were closely following political news while 41 percent said the same in the most recent Gallup survey. The percentage of Independents paying close attention to the news jumped from 30 percent in 2005 to 37 percent in 2009. Democrats during that same time frame had more modest gains -- from 26 percent to 30 percent -- in terms of those within the party paying close attention.

What should we take from these numbers?

First, that there is some disparity in the level of attention being paid by Republicans (41 percent paying very close attention) and Democrats (30 percent close attention) -- a difference that suggests a possible energy gap between the parties.

It's a natural phenomenon of politics that a political party -- once it achieves its goals -- tends to sit back and revel in its successes while the party who suffers the defeat re-engages at higher levels in hopes of changing the outcome in the next election.

The 2008 election gave Democrats everything they wanted: control of the White House and broadened majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Republicans hit rock-bottom -- deep in minority status, rudder-less and leader-less.

Given that dynamic, it's to be expected that the Republican base -- enraged by the direction President Barack Obama is taking the country -- would be more fired up to monitor the political news of the day. The declining interest for political news among Democratic base voters, on the other hand, complicates the Obama Administration's attempts to rally their most loyal supporters behind the President's plans.

The second major conclusion to be drawn from the Gallup data is that with such a significant chunk of people paying close attention to political news, there is a real opportunity for both sides to sway public opinion on critical issues.

Typically, the challenge for both political parties in an off-year is to get people to even notice their policy proposals, which are far less sexy than the daily back and forth of the campaign.

With so many people paying such close attention, however, it would suggest that opportunity exists for both Democrats and Republicans to move people in a real way on issues like health care over the next few months.

A sidenote: These numbers make the Fix's day! The more people paying attention to politics, the better for political junkies. Now is the time to evangelize about the Fix. Spread. The. Word.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 28, 2009; 10:58 AM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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Comments

Amen, ruraledcomm. The GOP has got nothing, and they think that's adequate.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 28, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

of the 36%, 50% Democrats, and 50% Independents, party of NO followers watch on Fox and don't read, so they don't count...party of NO, no ideas, no plans,nothing, even their potential candidates don't bother to vote during their entire adult life!!!..

Posted by: ruraledcomm | September 28, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

The more people paying attention to politics, the better for political junkies. Now is the time to evangelize about the Fix.

==

Great. Tell people about The Fix.

So they come here and see post after post after post by JakeD explaining what a fascinating person he is or attacking other posters, and then they read snowbama drooling on his bib about how much he hates Obama, and then the new arrivals leave.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back, either way. Here's the "negative" that benniecsmith -- not me -- brought up: "Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11".

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

quit with the blog clog, "JakeD"

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

justjoeking:

I thought you were gone until tomorrow?! Are you sure that you have posted here under a different name?

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

It is not necessary to prove a negative.

==

Of course it isn't. The burden of proof is always on the one making the assertion. And as much as anything can be, Iraq's helplessness in the face of invasion has been proven. A country with powerful weapons would not leave then unused while overrun with foreign troops.

The suggestion that Saddam would play ball is too ridiculous to even be funny, akin to suggesting that the Pope is on board with some nutty "God opposes corporate taxation" position embraced by uneducated fundamentalist Protestants in the USA.

There is no need to "prove a negative" here, but then consider the source.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I think it is clear that Cheney and Bush distorted the evidence they had, and tortured detainees to obtain "information" to convince the American people of something that had little if any basis in fact.

It is not necessary to prove a negative. Cheney's assertions have been thoroughly discredited. He probably won't be tried, but there may be enough evidence to convict.


Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I was not the one who brought up Saddam or 'one-world currency' either.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, JRM2, but I am out and posting from my iPhone. What he said is AS FAR AS WE KNOW, Saddam had no connection to 9/11 -- kinda like Bush didn't lie about "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" -- that's very different than "I know that Saddam wasn't involved." It's that whole "proving a negative" thing that's tripping you up.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

GW stated more than once that Sadaam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

==

Yes and you could be an Oxford professor of English and not realized that was what you had just heard. It was stated in one of those "carefully parsed" expressions and never stated in plain English.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

GW stated more than once that Sadaam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

The Batthists and Al Qaeda hate(d) each other.

So I guess I proved your point.

Posted by: JRM2 | September 28, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

DEMS' ACHILLES HEEL: FAILURE TO CHALLENGE GOP HOLD ON THE 'GRASSROOTS GESTAPO'

These poll numbers confirm something I've been saying in this space for some time -- that the GOP and the hard-right have quietly and efficiently organized at the grassroots, dominating and co-opting government-funded community policing and town watch groups, insinuating themselves deep inside local government and government-funded law enforcement auxiliary organizations.

This ideologically-driven nationwide grassroots army may explain the vociferous town hall meetings of the summer, as well as politically-inspired community "stalking" harassment reported by persons unjustly "targeted" as dissidents, whistle-blowers, or slandered as "troublemakers" or social deviates.

The naivete of liberals and progressives enables a grassroots Gestapo that underscores with a heavy gloved fist that old axiom that "all politics is local."

Please, Team Obama, AG Holder, and public officials at all levels, read THIS:

http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america OR (if link is corrupted / disabled): http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | September 28, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Chris, Chris, Chris, you've got it backwards!

These numbers might indicate a passion gap if party ID was roughly equal. Back in 2005, that was true. But democrats outnumber republicans, right now about 33% and 23% of voters respectively. So 30% of dems following closely means 11% of voters while 40% of repubs following closely means 8.5% of voters. So in fact the dems strong support is still larger.

Better yet, look at the trend! Back in 2005, about 33% of voters registered GOP. That's 8.5% of voters. So if we suppose the closely following members are the strong support, the GOP base has gone from 8.5% of voters to 8.5% of voters. Meanwhile the democratic base has grown from 9% to 11% of voters. That would lead us to expect a democratic swing of +10% compared to the 2006 elections.

What it basically boils down to is that people who started watching the news over the past couple of years left the republican party.

Posted by: theamazingjex | September 28, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

yeah that, 'enraged by the direction' is pretty shoddy and sloppy. CC must be reading that pathetic hack drudge again.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Given that dynamic, it's to be expected that the Republican base -- enraged by the direction President Barack Obama is taking the country

==

This is another unsupportable reading of the data kind of like the earlier statement that town-hall rage "suggests" something national about how we feel about Obama.

The GOP is enraged at being out of power. They're enraged about having a black man as president. They're enraged that we're not killing as many Muslims as we might. They're enraged that liberal ideas like the progressive income tax and universal health care are gaining currency.

Mostly they're enraged because they regard America as their own personal playground for their sick notions and it isn't anymore.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Of course Republicans are following politics closely. Their world is ending, their lives flashing before their eyes. Nobody ignores the death of his belief system.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

JakeD: Glad to hear you don't believe what you try to imply.
----------
"Complete lunacy" wherein the Left Behind total sales surpassed 65 million copies, right? Oh yeah, you don't answer simple questions about your own posts. Never mind.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse
---------------
drindl:

65 million TRUE BELIEVERS.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse
----------------

And yes, there may well be more Wiccans now than when Rowling started her series. There are also more Christians. And Hindi, and Muslims. More people of all stripes. So?

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Christian identificationis dropping fast

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm

" 76.5% (159 million) of Americans identify themselves as Christian. This is a major slide from 86.2% in 1990. Identification with Christianity has suffered a loss of 9.7 percentage points in 11 years -- about 0.9 percentage points per year. This decline is identical to that observed in Canada between 1981 and 2001. If this trend has continued, then:
bullet at the present time (2007-MAY), only 71% of American adults consider themselves Christians
bullet The percentage will dip below 70% in 2008
bullet By about the year 2042, non-Christians will outnumber the Christians in the U.S."

Evangelicals / fundamentalists make up somewhere under 20%. For some time these were fast-growing religions, now they're shrinking, and Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in the USA.

There are not "65 million true believers," that's nonsense.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I never said that book sales equal believers -- there are MORE Wiccans now that before Ms. Rowling's fiction -- see you tomorrow.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Other popular fiction: the Harry Potter series has sold over 400 million copies. That doesn't mean there are 400 million Wiccans out there.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The "Left Behind" series (10 books) sold 65 million copies total. Being that it is fiction, that number bears no relation to the number of Americans who actually believe the Book of Revelations depicts actual events.

The Bible itself of course is the bestselling book of all time, estimates run from 2.5 to over 6 Billion copies. Including a couple in my own home. Book sales do not equal believers.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

LOL --' true believers' in WHAT?

You mean True Fanatic.

The world is full of 'em. Cults are a mainstay of the human race, and every single one of them believe they are the one and only true religion.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

drindl:

65 million TRUE BELIEVERS.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

He truly is bonkers, GAT. I was joking the first time I said he was a mental patient, but now I really beleive he's possibly institutionalized. Or if he isn't, should be.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

There's (at least) 65 million of us, so you'd better get used to it.

==

Typical low-information voter.

20% of 130 million is about 25 million, not 65.

You don't know what the hell you're talking about.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

65 million of you -- what? Schizophreniacs? Racists? Misogynists? Raging delusonal lunatics?

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Some people are obviously unaware that 'one-world currency' is code for Anti-Christ and bar codes via tatoo

[latest assassination joke snipped]

==

Wow, the book of Revelations. Why don't you and your "wife" go into the bathroom together with some candles and a Ouija board and inquire about what lies ahead?

You're bonkers.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

drindl:

There's (at least) 65 million of us, so you'd better get used to it.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I think Cillizza's comments about Democratic complacency are spot-on. Democratic fund-raising is off-pace for much the same reasons.

But there are still more than 13 months until the mid-term elections. Plenty of time to re-energize supporters. The Senate will not change much; a seat or two plus or minus. And the Dems will probably lose 20 seats or so. Not a tidal wave.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"-- enraged by the direction President Barack Obama is taking the country -- "

CC, really? Really? Or is it just that they're enraged that they're out of power? Enraged that a Democrat--- ANY Democrat, helms the nation, and is engaging in strengthening of the homeland.

Posted by: BlusterMonkey | September 28, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The other number that needs to be kept in mind is the percentage of people identifying as Republicans. If it is still in the low 20s, then they are about even with the Dems on this and (as always) it will be decided by independents.

Posted by: trep1 | September 28, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I cannot beleive anyone is actually discussing this as if it were sane.

jeezus...

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

ddawd writes
"I think this number is really the most useful when it's placed in context..."

Another relevant context: how these numbers compare to prior elections. The Fix speculates that the bump in interest could imply electoral enthusiasm. A little research would tell us whether this has been true in the past. i.e. did these numbers predict the dem sweeps in 2006 & 2008? What about the GOP sweep in 2002?

Posted by: bsimon1 | September 28, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

That being said, today's number (36) times 18.5 (the average age of Obamaniacs) = (you guessed it) 666.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think we should govern according to RevelationS.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

No, strike that. Bachman is not delusional for using the phrase to stir up the religious base. She's only delusional if she actually thinks we should govern according to Revelations.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Yes. Delusional. As delusional as St. John was when he started writing down all his bad dreams.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

That's sad, margaret. The rise of rightwing media is the proximate cause of the dumbing down of America -- why so many people now know so little fact, and so much fantasy.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

margaretmeyers:

What if Obama does not close GTMO by Election Day 2012?

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

benniecsmith, you took the words right out of my mouth.

My lovely old dad thinks he is following national news very closely. His exclusive sources are the Wall Street Journal and von Limbaugh. They tell him everything he feels the need to know.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 28, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

benniecsmith:

You KNOW for sure that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11? I would think that only terrorists KNOW that for sure.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I would be interested to know how the age groups breakdown.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 28, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't there be a caveat in this poll for Republicans who are "paying close attention?" Because paying close attention to Fox News is proven to actually lower your knowledge of what is genuine fact (i.e. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11; there are no such thing as "death panels" in the health care proposals).

Posted by: benniecsmith | September 28, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"Some people are obviously unaware that 'one-world currency' is code for Anti-Christ and bar codes via tatoo "

..proving once again that rightwingers are all total nuts.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Carpathia#Death_and_resurrection

Also "delusional"?

BTW: what if Obama does not close GTMO by Election Day 2012?

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Oil prices around the world are set in US Dollars. If there was to be a single currency, it wouldn't be Euros or UN-dollars, it would be US dollars.

If I thought Bachman was talking about converting to a UN currency, I would simply think she was ill-informed. If she is really speaking code about the anti-christ, then she is delusional.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Does that mean that 666 (Rev. 13:17-18) is the Most Important Number in Politics Today?

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Some people are obviously unaware that 'one-world currency' is code for Anti-Christ and bar codes via tatoo (now, if pResident Obama suffers a fatal head wound but "rises" from the dead, then all bets are off ; )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

"Bachmann touched on the priorities of Republicans if they retook Congress in 2010, to “pass repealer bill after repealer bill,” to prevent the creation of a one-world currency."

Yeah, these are big themes to run on. Republicans have some important ideas, all right.

Not only will they get rid of the 'one-world currency' we currently live under, they will order the destruction of all black helicopters.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

So, what's that NUMBER then?

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

A far more important number:

"If you look at various polling data, it seems there's a pretty decent chance that Congressional Republicans got well ahead of themselves in their collective August freak-out. A number of polls have shown that over the course of August -- well in advance of the president's relaunch of his health care push -- opposition to reform peaked and support began to rebound. What's more, the president's approval rating -- and particularly his approval on health care reform -- has started to rise.

And in what could be a critical development, the latest polls are showing a growing number of Americans beginning to credit the President's stimulus package with helping to revive the economy."

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Yes, drindl, I see how your "boycott" of the Fix works too.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

If republicans win the governorships in NJ and VA, it means a huge gain of seats for them in the next election.

If the don't win, it means nothing at all -- all politics is local.

See how it works?

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

We'll see if there's a political tsunami coming if the GOP win both NJ and VA Governor races.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse


"Meanwhile, Republicans hit rock-bottom -- deep in minority status, rudder-less and leader-less."

You forgot 'clueless' and 'lost in Lala Land.'

Ahh, yes, this is to savor. Run more material like this and less republican cheerleading, and I will do some evangelizing.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Good analysis, Mr. Cillizza. I concur. I'd also like to thank you for this sentence:

"Meanwhile, Republicans hit rock-bottom -- deep in minority status, rudder-less and leader-less."

Ahhh. That hits the spot like a pumpkin-spice latte.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I think this number is really the most useful when it's placed in context with the upcoming midterm or Presidential election. You always expect the Prez years to draw considerable interest, but what about the midterms? Should this number portend greater interest and turnout next year?

Posted by: DDAWD | September 28, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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