The voting taboo

by May Ponzo

It might appear that US citizens have no shame in sharing their political opinions in the media, but how free are US citizens in speaking truthfully about their political preferences in their very own homes?

Morgan Baker, who is writing his PhD about American Presidency at University College London, explains how Americans are “more inclined to just simply stick a sign in their yard but don’t talk about politics.”

Indeed, during the election period American front lawns and car bumper stickers become a space for expressing one’s political preferences. Yet, these opinions remain anonymous and when asked who one will be voting for very few want to share their secret.

Julie Johnson, 20, says: “My parents didn’t even talk about it at home because it would start an argument. There is a reluctance to talk freely about who we vote for at home.”

Morgan Baker agrees that one of the reasons for this taboo lies in people wanting to avoid conflict due to the large polarization existing in the US politics. The two-party political system in the US creates a strong partition in the US, making politics a sensitive topic to be avoided.

Melanie Guardia, 22, says: “You never know you can’t look at a person and tell if they are Democrat or Republican so you have to be careful with what you say because you don’t want to start an argument with your friends.”  

Avoiding conflict isn’t the only motive for the taboo of talking politics in the US. Morgan Baker explains that there is more of a taboo in southern states where religion plays a larger role: “We are formally supposed to have a separation of the church and the state but it is very integrated. It is ingratiated in our political system.”

According to Baker, the real taboo lies in people avoiding politics because they know that sharing their political preferences could expose their religious views. Especially when it comes to delicate subjects like abortion. Republicans, who are deeply integrated with the Evangelicals, would have to admit their political beliefs and this would inevitably increase the enduring division within the US society.

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