Politics

These TV Ratings Say A Lot About America

State of the Union vs. NFL Playoffs

In a dubious exhibition of American priorities, a paltry 31.7 million people tuned into President Obama's State of the Union address last Tuesday, all the while 49.8 million watched last Sunday's NFL playoff game between the Packers and Seahawks. 

According to newly released Nielsen ratings, 2015 viewership of the State of the Union was the lowest since 2000 and the second-lowest since 1993 when Nielsen first started collecting data.  

And yet, despite a beleaguered season for the NFL with domestic and child abuse scandals alike, television ratings have remained persistently strong.

Which means we all bear some responsibility. The outrage over Commissioner Roger Goodell's unscrupulous leadership and consequent impassioned pleas for his resignation have dissipated... just in the time for the forthcoming Super Bowl kickoff.

The State of the Union is hardly an isolated case. 

The 2014 midterm election turnout was another strong testament to Americans' tepidness toward civic engagement. As ATTN: reported last November, almost twice as many people shopped on Black Friday than voted in the midterm elections. Data from the National Retail Federation confirmed that 140.1 million people went shopping for flat screens and the like, whereas only 76.9 million people voted in the midterms, the lowest turnout since World War II.

Which is also why Congress does not represent you. If it's already not intuitively obvious that low voter turnout increases the effectiveness of special interests, then a recent paper about declining voter turnout from the think-tank California Common Sense put it best: "a restricted primary voter pool allots disproportionate influence to voters at the extreme ends of the political spectrum," it concludes.

In other words: low voter turnout equals higher partisanship.

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