- Percentage of Americans following news on national politics is back to 2008 high
- Democrats are following national political news more closely than Republicans are
- Older Americans are most likely to follow news on national politics "very closely"
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Less than two months from the presidential election, 42% of Americans say they follow news about national politics "very closely," similar to the 39% to 43% who paid this close attention in each of the prior three presidential election years since 2008. Today's level is a bit higher than in 2004, when 36% followed national political news very closely. Attention was far lower in 1996, at 27%.
Line graph. Rate of those following news about elections closely typically rises prior to election. The current rate matches 2008 record high of 42%.
Since 2006, about a third of U.S. adults have closely followed political news in non-election years. That figure ticks up sharply in presidential election years, only to recede the following year. While Americans' attention didn't fall much in the first year after President Donald Trump was elected, it did dwindle to 32% by 2019, only to spike 10 percentage points this year.
In addition to the 42% of Americans saying they follow national political news very closely in the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 poll, 38% say they follow it "somewhat closely," 14% "not too closely" and 6% "not at all."
Partisans Most Attentive to Political News
Partisan differences in attention to news have not been large in presidential election years, but to the extent there is a difference -- as in 2008 and 2012 -- Republicans have been the ones more likely to pay close attention. By contrast, today, Democrats are now slightly more likely than Republicans to say they are following news about national politics very closely (51% vs. 45%, respectively).
In line with prior election year polls, independents are significantly less attentive than either major party group, with about a third (34%) saying they are following news on national politics very closely.
Line graph. The percentage of Americans paying very close attention to national political news, by political affiliation. 51% of Democrats now say they are paying very close attention to national political news, compared with 45% of Republicans and 34% of independents. Unlike previous election cycles, Democrats now most likely to say following political news very closely.
Age Disparities in Focus on National Politics
Older Americans are typically more likely than younger adults to say they are following news on national politics very closely. However, unlike their two age cohort comparisons, older Americans are the only age group to be more likely this year (56%) than in 2008 (50%) to say they are following political news very closely.
Adults aged 18 to 34 are the least likely to say they are following news on national politics very closely this year, at 23% -- a significantly lower figure than the 32% of 18- to 34-year-olds who said the same in 2008, when the nation witnessed a historic turnout of young voters.
Four in 10 middle-aged Americans (aged 35 to 54) say they are following political news very closely, just shy of the 44% high for this age group that Gallup recorded in 2008.
Line graph. The percentage of Americans paying very close attention to national political news, by age group. 56% of those aged 55 or older now say they are paying very close attention to national political news, compared with 40% of those 35-54 and 23% of those 18-34. As with previous elections, older respondents more likely than younger ones to say following national politics closely.
With just six weeks until the Nov. 3 contest, Americans are relatively focused on national politics, as is typical in presidential election years. Compared with their interest in 2008, a year with record-high voter turnout, Democrats are more attentive today, a finding that could bode well for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
When Gallup last measured the amount of thought Americans are giving to the presidential election, Republicans and Democrats were about equal. That situation could have changed since mid-August and the political conventions, but given Republicans' usual advantage on that measure, a tie between the parties may suggest a stronger Democratic positioning than usual. Gallup will update its "election thought" measure in the coming weeks.
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Learn more about public opinion metrics that matter for the 2020 presidential election at Gallup's 2020 Presidential Election Center.