Sick of political ads and negative campaigning, many Chicagoans were simply ready to get back to an election-free work environment Wednesday.
Chuck Sebastian, a physical education teacher at the Latin School of Chicago was ready to put the election behind him Wednesday morning. He felt frustrated during the presidential debates when candidates gave evasive answers. But it was the negativity of TV advertisements that particularly frustrated him: “It was just a continuous stream of attacks rather than a candidate clearly laying out their mission.”
Sebastian could have been speaking for thousands of Chicagoans who were eager to go back to a workplace blessedly devoid of election intrigue. An unofficial survey of Chicago commuters Wednesday found that most weren’t interested in discussing politics—particularly with a journalist.
Annoyed with ads, many voters said they felt like they had to do their own research on the candidates. “You have to look online or someplace else. You can’t trust the media. It’s kind of discouraging and it doesn’t seem to get any better," said Chris Evans, a receptionist at a downtown company.
One consistent theme among election-weary workers was the mind-boggling amount of money spent. And there was a lot of it. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group, campaigns and their supporters spent about $6 billion during the 2012 elections, which is $700 million more than was spent in 2008. “We could have spent that money on education, jobs and transportation,” said Sebastian. One skeptic joked that the U.S. should have just given the money to Congress to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff that is looming in January.
Looking to decipher the political slogans, people read blogs and social media sites. But often those sources were just as polarizing. “People became so offensive on Facebook,” said Eleni Margaritis, an elementary education teacher. “If it’s not face to face, people don’t think they have to deal with the consequences.” Margaritis and her coworkers said that both winners and losers were to blame for posting rude and ‘unlikable’ comments on Facebook.
Others, however, felt that Twitter allowed them to avoid the normal election malarkey. Melody Kramer, a Twitter guru with almost 3,000 followers, doesn’t have a TV and got most of her election updates from tweets. Kramer didn’t think that there was overbearing negativity: “I thought people tried to remain fair and balanced—I’m lucky. My friends don’t turn against people with opposing viewpoints.”
She suggested that Twitter could help political campaigns spend less money. However, she admitted that then candidates would only be reaching a certain demographic: the one that’s already following them.