Eitan Hersh at the Boston Review: “…What I’m doing I call political hobbyism, a catchall phrase for consuming and participating in politics by obsessive news-following and online “slacktivism,” by feeling the need to offer a hot take for each daily political flare-up, by emoting and arguing and debating, almost all of this from behind screens or with earphones on. I am in good company: these behaviors represent how most “politically engaged” Americans spend their time on politics.
In 2018, I asked a representative sample of Americans to estimate about how much time they spend on any kind of political-related activity in a typical day. A third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics. Of these people, four out of five say that not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It is all TV news and podcasts and radio shows and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.
Political hobbyists tend to be older than the general public, though they are found in all age groups. They are disproportionately college educated, male, and white. In the current climate, they are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans or independents. Not only are they different from the general public, they also have a different profile from people who engage actively in political organizations. For example, of the people who spend two hours a day on politics but no time on volunteering, 56 percent are men. But of those who spend that much time on politics, with at least some of it spent volunteering, 66 percent are women.
Those who volunteer, such as the group in Westmoreland County that is out convincing neighbors to vote and to advocate, have something to show for their commitment to their political values. As for the rest of us, all we have is a sinking feeling of helplessness in the face of overwhelming challenge.
As a political scientist, I study the ways that ordinary people participate in politics. The political behavior of ordinary people is hard to understand. We don’t often reflect deeply on why we engage in politics. However, when we step back and investigate our political lives, we can paint a general picture of what motivates us. Summing up the time we spend on politics, it would be hard to describe our behavior as seeking to influence our communities or country. Most of us are engaging to satisfy our own emotional needs and intellectual curiosities. That’s political hobbyism….(More)”.