American politics in the modern era is defined by outrage. Everyone needs to not only have something to be upset about, but a media platform to demonstrate precisely how upset they are, hopefully spurring the target audience to join them in their outrage. One problem is that for much of the time, what people are getting upset about is something that someone else said. Not something they did. Just the words coming out of their mouths. And nowhere is that as true as in the identity politics and culture wars that consume much of the political coverage on cable news.
How well does that translate in terms of influencing voters? Perhaps not as much as you might have thought. A massive new poll from Morning Consult indicates that a whopping majority of Americans today agree with the statement, “people are too easily offended these days.” In other words, get over yourselves and get on with your lives. (Washington Times)
Culture may seem to be dominated by trigger warning and hypersensitivity. A sizable new poll, however, finds that 81% of Americans agree that “people are too easily offended these days,” an opinion that also spans political beliefs.
The poll found that 94% of Republicans, 82% of independents and 70% of Democrats agree with this idea.
The finding comes from a Morning Consult poll of more than 13,000 U.S. adults.
The public also reveals a certain weariness with both the culture wars and the social dynamics at work these days.
Our media doesn’t do a very good job of reflecting the realities of life in America much of the time. What they want you to believe is upsetting and terrible probably doesn’t horrify you as much as certain activists might hope. Perhaps fatigue has long since set in after endless claims of how horrible everything surely is.
All of this reminds me of a couple of themes I’ve touched on repeatedly here. At the highest level, it’s important to remember that when everything is outrageous, nothing is outrageous. On the more granular level, look no further than the constant accusations of racism coming primarily from liberals and progressives. When everything is racist, nothing is racist. I’ll take that one step further by once again issuing a word of caution that should have become clear after the events in Charlottesville. When you go around calling everyone you disagree with a racist or a Nazi, you’ll have no idea what to do when the actual racists and Nazis show up.
If this poll is to be believed, we seem to have worn out people’s ability to remain perpetually offended. This is particularly true when it comes to speech, allegedly free for anyone to engage in. The Morning Consult survey found that nearly three-quarters of voters agree with the phrase, “the rules about what you can and cannot say change so fast it’s difficult to keep up.” Of course, the breakdown by party lines on that one is interesting. 85% GOP, 70% independent and 64% Dem.
75% of Republicans agree that “people should be able to say what they really think, even if it might offend people.” Only a little more than half of Democrats (55%) feel the same way. Of course, even if you agree that you can do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, at least not in all circumstances.
Nothing is going to be solved by publishing this survey, but at least it puts the subject out on the table for everyone to consider. Cable news can’t survive without a constant stream of outrage to feed it and fill all those hours of programming. Real news only happens just so often and you eventually run out of meaningful things to say about it. That leaves them with analyzing every speech, interview, Facebook post or tweet looking for something else to be upset about. But at least according to this poll, they’ve long since burned most of their target audience out.