SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Every week, we get emails and tweets from people who say they are so appalled by this year's election campaign they can no longer pay attention to the news. And they often go on to give us full details about the latest incident in the campaign that's so repulsed them. A lot of Americans say they are disgusted by this year's election, and the data says they can't get enough of it.
The Wall Street Journal reports the prime-time audience of adults under 50 for the top four broadcast networks who schedule dramas, comedies and so-called reality shows in that slot is down 9.2 percent from last year's fall TV season. But the cable news networks who feature punditry, talking heads, barking heads and campaign surrogates in a lather of overcharges and countercharges have never had higher ratings, up 39 percent in a three-week span this fall from the same time period during the last presidential election.
Movie attendance since Labor Day is down 16 percent. Some producers have delayed the release of their films until after November 8 when mere movies don't have to compete with all the talk of forcible grabbing, groping, small hands and tongue gymnastics in the current presidential election.
Even the National Football League has suffered a serious ratings drop, down 24 percent for "Monday Night Football." 84.4 million people watched the first presidential debate, which was on a Monday night. Where do you think there was more headbanging and bone-rattling - the Falcons and the Saints or Clinton and Trump?
I think a lot of people who insist they are too appalled by this year's campaign to pay attention to it may be eager to say what sounds high-minded to others and even to themselves, but it's not what they're actually doing. I don't know if this is addiction or delusion, but many people seem to like to announce to their friends that they are sickened by this campaign and can't take another day, then they go home and gorge themselves with it all over again, on the web, cable news and, yes, public radio.
We all have our weaknesses for junk food and junk entertainment. But what will we do for excitement after November 8? When this election is over, can the bland, plain, hokey, workaday details of committees, compromise, policy proposals and politics possibly compete with the wild ride of this campaign? Or will we have to whip up new conflict and rivalry to make people pay attention to what, after all, elections are really all about?
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