We need to stop being defined by our fringes.

Blame social media. Only the loudest, the most controversial, the most absurd break through. They gain followers, hone their game, and the effects compound. 

It inevitably flows into elected politics. Moderate points of view seldom garner likes or retweets. Moderate candidates lack the tribal appeal to raise money or win primaries. Anything less than unyielding loyalty to the party is a kamikaze mission. See: Cheney, Liz.

But if you step away from social media for a minute – if you talk to real people about real issues – you might find things aren’t nearly as irreparable as they seem. A few off-pitch singers merely drown out the harmony. 

We surveyed over four million Americans and a near-equal 19% identify as “Strong Democrat” and 18% as “Strong Republican.” A full 63% fall somewhere in the middle. It sure as hell doesn’t feel that way if you spend ten minutes on Facebook – because the polar 37% dominate the discourse.

I recently ran a small – if imperfect – experiment to test the extent of our tribal devolution. We forced respondents to choose between Candidate A, who supports conservative policies BUT believes Trump rightfully LOST the 2020 election; or Candidate B, who supports liberal policies BUT believes Donald Trump rightfully WON the 2020 election. Look:

You could spin these numbers to validate whatever political biases you enjoy – people on both sides compromise policy beliefs for fealty or disdain of Trump. 

I’d rather zoom out. A majority of Americans across the political spectrum chose Candidate A and it’s not even close. Consensus. Eureka!   

My podcast guest this week was 14-term U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA). He chairs the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, where most of the crucial policy on tech, privacy, and all things digital are being decided. We talked about the scourge of misinformation online, the scary lobbying power of Big Tech, and how difficult it is to recruit quality candidates for office today. Who can blame them? 

But it’s not all bad. There’s a lot more bipartisan collaboration behind the scenes than we realize. The Congressman separates officeholders who are “social media stars” from those who create and pass laws – and how there’s little overlap between the two. The former grab the headlines, because we like to watch car wrecks, even if the country is in the car.

There is, indeed, a true “silent majority” in our country. It’s moderate, rational, and well-meaning. 

Don’t be fooled.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Dollar stores are having a moment right now. This seems fairly obvious, given our gusty financial headwinds, but some of the underlying numbers are less intuitive. Visits and brand favorability at Dollar General, for example, are remarkably strong among upper-income Americans. Same goes for the ever-practical and non-superficial Gen Zs – who have increasingly turned to dollar stores for groceries. This is a trend to keep an eye on.

Sticking with Gen Z, they’re a healthy bunch. If you were caught up in the Great Email Debacle of 2022, you probably missed my gushing missive about the mental health prowess of Gen Z. Well, you’re back just in time to read about their commitment to physical health too. Nearly half of adults aged 18-24 say physical fitness is “important or a passion” of theirs – the same percentage exercise “several times a week.” They’re twice as likely as the general population to be joggers and use guided workout apps. Yes, they’re young, they have more free time, etc. But they’re not just sitting at home playing video games. 

Although Gen Z is playing (and watching) video games too, they’re just not the only ones. Nearly 40% of Americans aged 13-44 say they watch livestreams of video games. Twitch and YouTube Gaming dominate the category. Fifty-seven percent of people in the same age group play video games at least monthly, up from 54% a year ago. Marketers should take note of the sky-high correlations between watching livestream video games and all manner of trend adoption, from clothing subscription kits to grocery delivery to crypto investing. Maybe there’s something to this whole metaverse thing, after all. 

People pay the most attention to ads they see on TV and almost half watch TV primarily by themselves. Even as the population of U.S. cord-cutters crossed the 50% threshold this year, ad-supported TV still dominates – 71% of streamers say they are more likely to watch one or more platforms that include ads, compared to ad-free platforms (i.e., not Netflix…yet). That’s good news for advertisers because TV ads remain the most impactful ads, compared to other mediums like online, social, or radio.  Beyond that, this study is the kind of thing my board yells at me about for giving away for free, so enjoy it while you can. It covers everything from where people watch TV in their homes, who they watch with, what devices they’re watching on, and what they do with their second device while watching. You’re welcome.

Americans are more likely to buy from Patagonia now that the company is being donated to fight climate change. I should point out that 23% of people (who are probably incredibly bombastic on Facebook) say they are “much less likely” to buy from Patagonia, since the announcement – though I would bet you my Patagonia half-zip they didn’t shop there in the first place. Forty-two percent of adults say they are more likely to shop there. In related news, notwithstanding the people who don’t think there’s a climate crisis, the vast majority believe corporations should be held most accountable.  

Three more studies this week:

  • Pet insurance is popular among pandemic pet parents;
  • People with piercings are twice as likely to smoke and other factoids;
  • What people love most about Disney ahead of its centennial anniversary. 

The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Pool table by a mile; I’m a tremendous whistler; Definitely not; The latter; If it was Lewis Hamilton, I wouldn’t have any choice in the matter.

Hoping you’re well.