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America's 'watching From The Sidelines' Since Election

This story was written by Cheyenne Autry, Technician


America watched with anticipation as the biggest election in history unfolded Nov. 4, resulting in the most important political event of our time. The election had the greatest outpouring of involvement from young people ever seen in an election, and many became extremely passionate about the candidates. The tension that had been building for the past year climaxed on Nov. 4 as the world watched the first African American in the history of the United States become the president-elect of the most powerful nation in the world. But what happened on the days that followed? Where did all the excitement about the political process go?

All the talk had his phones ringing off the hook for months prior to Nov. 4. Many reporters, about six or seven a day, were calling in regards to the looming election. Many North Carolina State University students on both sides of the political spectrum came with questions and discussions, bringing much more activity than he was used to. But now, political science professor and chair Andrew Taylor's phone is silent.

So, what happened?

The drop of interest and engagement in politics is a normal occurrence following any election, Taylor said.

"There's been a drop off where a lot of people who were engaged with the campaign have become observers," Taylor said. "Now everyone is watching from the sidelines."

The sudden drop of interest has been seen in many places outside Taylor's office as well. According to the Washington Post, several major news channels and Web sites have seen dramatic falls in viewers. MSNBC.com's traffic fell by 25 percent, which translates to about 6.4 million visitors. Yahoo News lost 21 percent, 5.2 million, of its visitors and CNN.com lost the most -- a staggering 26.9 million in the post-election week.

The trend was much the same across the airwaves as Fox News, CNN and MSNBC watched millions of viewers disappear the week after the election. The sudden drop in viewers has left the networks with a big problem -- how to get back their viewers without relying on the daily debating of the latest campaign developments.

Some students have noticed the fallout of interest as well.

"Everyone was talking about McCain and Obama," Nancy Boyce, sophomore in environmental technology, said. "It seemed like the election became more of a competition to just win rather than the process of choosing a leader and no one seems to know what to do now that it's over."

However, the unprecedented excitement generated by this year's presidential race did cause the fall in interest afterward to seem more dramatic than in years passed. Though many people, seasoned and first time voters alike, became heavily involved with the presidential campaigns, many don't see the point after the ballots have been counted.

"The public engages because it considers it's most important political role in citizenship to be voting," Taylor said. "The interest now will be in how Obama performs as the new president."

Of course, a resurgence in interest in expected in the the wake of the upcoming inauguration taking place January 20. Must of the interest is now directed toward the country's future and Obama's first decisions as president.

"People don't know much about him -- he's the first African American President," Taylor said. "There's a sizable amount of people pulling for him to do well but some will be pulling for him to do poorly."

Though the excitement of last month's election seems to have disappeared, it seems to just be a breather before the action picks up again next year.

"There is nothing else to rally for right now," Rachel Freeman, sophomore in biological sciences said.

Tylor also believes that the country is just tired from exasperating so much energy and pouring so much effort into the election.

"There is a sense of exhaustion," Taylor said. "Everyone is watching from the sidelines for now."

However, the incidents following the election of Obama as the next president has some worried that similar incidents will occur once he actually takes office.

"I think the same problems will come back again," Freeman said. "I just hope that America is a country mature enough to handle it."

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