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Three in 10 Americans Follow Election Very Closely

Three in 10 Americans Follow Election Very Closely
by Justin McCarthy


  • Thirty-eight percent say they follow election somewhat closely
  • About half of senior citizens say they follow it very closely
  • Less than a quarter of adults under 30 follow it very closely

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Almost seven in 10 Americans are following news about the 2016 presidential election campaign closely, with 31% following it "very closely" and 38% "somewhat closely."


How closely are you following the news about the 2016 presidential election campaign -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely or not at all?

Very closely% Somewhat closely% Not too closely% Not at all%
National adults 31 38 22 8
Jan. 15-16, 2016

These results, from a Jan. 15-16 Gallup poll, come as more than a dozen presidential candidates gear up for the next phase of the campaign, with the primary schedule that begins in Iowa on Feb. 1. Ten months have passed since the first candidate announced his intention to run, and Americans have since had the opportunity to watch six Republican and four Democratic debates.

The 2016 race thus far has been unique, and has seen highly anticipated campaigns sputter and unexpected ones rise. In particular, the unusual and highly covered candidacy of businessman Donald Trump has arguably been the dominant story among the Republican contenders. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has emerged as a spirited challenger to Hillary Clinton. A theme of rocking party establishment norms has underlined both Democratic and Republican nomination contests. A majority of Americans are paying attention to the campaign at least somewhat closely, but less than a third say they follow it very closely. A similar percentage of U.S. adults are only mildly interested or completely disengaged.

More Republicans Than Democrats Following Election Very Closely

Republicans (42%) and conservatives (40%) are more likely than Democrats (33%) and liberals (27%) to say they follow the 2016 presidential election very closely. The higher level of attention that Republicans and conservatives are paying could reflect the larger number of GOP candidates in the race, the greater level of competition or the boisterous presence of Trump -- or it could reflect underlying demographics of the partisan groups. Specifically, groups that tend to be more Democratic politically -- nonwhites, younger adults and women -- are paying less attention to election news than their counterparts are.

As is the historical norm, older Americans are much more focused on the election than those who are younger. Senior citizens -- Americans aged 65 and older -- are the only group in which a majority say they are following the election very closely, while adults younger than 50 are about half as likely to be following the election very closely. And while more than four in 10 college graduates (42%) say they are following election coverage very closely, only about a quarter (26%) of those who didn't graduate college say the same.


How closely are you following the news about the 2016 presidential election campaign -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely or not at all?

Very closely% Somewhat closely% Not too closely% Not at all%
Democrats 33 47 15 4
Independents 24 33 31 11
Republicans 42 36 15 6
Liberals 27 44 23 7
Moderates 28 38 22 10
Conservatives 40 36 19 4
18 to 29 22 38 35 6
30 to 49 23 41 22 14
50 to 64 35 38 20 7
65+ 51 34 10 3
Whites 37 39 18 6
Nonwhites 20 38 29 12
College graduates 42 41 12 4
Non-college graduates 26 37 26 10
Jan. 15-16, 2016

Bottom Line

While a majority of American adults may be paying attention to the election news, this doesn't say much about which candidates they favor or their likelihood of voting. Committed voters could studiously follow their favorite candidates just as easily as they could tune out the coverage of the lengthy process, already knowing whom they would like to vote for.

Though Republicans report following election coverage more closely than Democrats, this could have more to do with the fact that their field is far larger, and therefore presents a much wider spectrum of choices. Also, there is more uncertainty regarding the outcome of the Republican nomination process, whereas Clinton has long been considered the dominant front-runner on the Democratic side. Though Sanders appears to be exceeding expectations in the Democratic campaign, questions remain about whether the 74-year-old admitted socialist can defeat Clinton.

The Democratic National Committee has also been criticized for airing debates during times when some observers say fewer people are viewing them; half of the Democratic debates so far have occurred on weekends. In contrast, the Republican debates have attracted large audiences, with Trump's presence a likely factor in addition to the highly competitive nature of the GOP contest.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 15-16, 2016, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Daily tracking works.