SURVEY SAYS: Are You Talking Politics at Work?

September 11, 2008 ( - There's been a LOT going on the past several weeks on the political front - and I think it's fair to say that, whatever your personal political leanings, where things stand today, no one could have anticipated a month ago.

With so much “grist” for the mill, this week I asked readers if they were talking politics at work.  

Perhaps not surprisingly, a clear plurality of this week’s respondents answered that question in the affirmative – 44.1% – though nearly as many ( 36.4% ) said they were “trying to avoid it.”   Only about 17% said “no,” and a mere 2.5% said that while they were talking about politics, it wasn’t the presidential kind.

Nearly half ( 48.6% ) described the discussions as “friendly” – and a nearly identical 46.8% said they were “spirited, but amicable.”   Indeed, a mere 4.6% said the debates were “ugly.”

And while there were clearly workplaces where folks felt “intimidated” (more on that in a minute), for the most part this week’s respondents described a fairly balanced environment (well, in the aggregate, anyway).  

Just 11.4% described the debate in their workplace as being MUCH more favorable toward the Democrats, and only 14.9% said it played out MUCH more favorable for the GOP.   Only one-in-ten said it was more favorable to the Democrats, and 16.7% said it was somewhat more favorable for the GOP.   Perhaps the most telling statistic, however, was that a full quarter ( 24.6% ) said it was “hard to say” how those debates “leaned” (the remainder said those discussions weren’t happening in their workplace).

Different Perspectives

That the aggregate split was so balanced doesn’t mean that individual workplaces were, of course.   Check out the following comments:

“As a Democrat working with a bunch of very right-wing Republicans who don’t want to be confused by facts about their candidate and his running mate, I avoid discussion. Sadly, unlike other places where I’ve worked with Republicans, it isn’t possible in this workplace to have a respectful exchange of viewpoints–it turns ugly very quickly.”

“As a conservative I have learned to not talk politics with anyone other than friends and family that I know to be conservatives as well. I have learned from experience that liberals are too rabid and unpredictable to risk crossing in casual conversation.”

“In my office unless you are a Republican you keep your mouth shut and your head down. IF they want your opinion, they will give it to you. Communist = Republican.”

“It is tough being a conservative at a very liberal organization in CA. They talk a lot about diversity, but apparently it does not include diversity of thought.”

Or, as one reader suggested, “This past week there has been a lot of talk about the Presidential (and Vice Presidential) race, but not much listening.”

This week I also asked if the vice-presidential picks had had an impact your presidential inclinations - and for nearly half ( 49.6% ), it had served to affirm their original inclinations, while more than a third ( 35% ), the choice had made no difference.

For 8.5% , the decision had left folks "feeling queasy" about their initial leaning, while about as many ( 6.8% ) said the announcement/decision had changed their mind.

And while there weren't a LOT of verbatims this week, I thought these were interesting/fun:

"Politics? Who talks politics this time of year in Green Bay?"

"Nevin, I've always been told to never mix business with politics or religion. Obviously, a lot of people haven't received that memo!"

"My whole office may very well be in love with Sarah Palin."

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who noted;

"Being in HR means projecting neutrality at all times at work, but at home it is a different story."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

This week I asked readers if there were any special activity or commemoration of the day at their workplace.

The vast majority ( 76% ) said simply "no", and just 3% said there would be, while a surprising one-in-five weren't sure.  

The sentiments expressed this year were quite different from, say five years ago.   Several readers essentially said they thought it was time to "move on," others saw the focus on the attacks on 09/11 as being somewhat myopic (wondering, for instance, why the same reverence wasn't accorded the Oklahoma City bombing, or even the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center).  

However, a large number of respondents indicated that they were planning some kind of private commemoration - both at work and at home.  

However you choose to spend the day - peace.