Sequester Bad For Page Views

Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins notes that the sequester doesn’t seem to be drawing the attention of the public:

Not since Mitt Romney ran for president has a national political story so failed to capture the imagination — and page views — of the public as the so-called “sequester,” a set of mandatory cuts dangling like some ghastly metaphor or other above the cowering federal budget.

As lawmakers squabble over who should be blamed for the doomsday device they installed together in 2011 — across-the-board spending cuts designed to be so unpalatable to voters that they would force Congress to agree on a more acceptable alternative before they went into effect — editors from the Huffington Post to the Daily Caller are struggling to get readers interested in the latest manufactured crisis to roll off the assembly lines of Capitol Hill.

“It definitely feels like there’s less interest,” said Gabriel Snyder, editor of The Atlantic Wire. “Generally, a sequel is always less exciting than the original. This is more like a sequel to a sequel to a sequel.”

“I’d give you a quote about the traffic generated by sequestration stories, but will anyone click on your sequestration-related story and read it?” quipped Huffington Post political editor Sam Stein.

“I haven’t noticed this problem, because I saw someone tweet that nothing kills web traffic worse than the sequester. Since then, I have avoided it like the plague,” saidDaily Caller reporter Matt Lewis.

There’s no question that the audience interested in the artificial deadlines continually put in place by deadlocked lawmakers in D.C. has shrunken over the past two years. In July 2011, a Gallup poll found nearly 6 in 10 Americans paying close attention to the debt ceiling standoff; roughly the same portion was following the “fiscal cliff” fight last December. But each of those much-hyped “crises” passed without incident, at least in terms of their impact on average people; America actually sailed peacefully off the misnamed “fiscal cliff” and didn’t notice. And so the public has apparently stopped responding to their elected officials’ relentless wolf-crying. A new poll out this week found that just 27% of Americans have heard “a lot” about the mandatory spending cuts scheduled to take effect next week.


[A]t The Atlantic Wire’s sister site, Atlantic politics editor David Graham speculated that since the sequester was a bipartisan invention, it has failed to generate the kind of left-versus-right food fight that is typically great for traffic.

“The fact that there’s no clear partisan divide is probably a major factor,” Graham said. “Despite efforts on both sides to pin this on each other, I think people sense, rightly, that both parties are guilty, having agreed to the sequester and voted for it. Even if the results are going to be bad for them, readers are more likely to get whipped up if there’s an obvious partisan battle in which they can take sides.”

I think the better explanation is that the sequester “crisis” is really just a replay of similar situations that have gripped Washington repeatedly since the lame duck session in December 2010. This is at least the fourth or fifth time we’ve been through this, and it’s worth remembering that we just finished dealing with the most recent “crisis” less than two months ago. It’s likely that people are just sick of the antics from Washington, I know I am. Another factor to keep in mind is that may people are probably still suffering from post-election political burnout, something that is evidenced by the declines in page views and viewers that most news outlets and blogs experienced after November 6th. Unlike those of us obsessed with politics, most Americans don’t have the inclination to follow every single going on in Washington, D.C. or get involved in the idiotic partisan games that now substitute for governing there. I can’t say I blame them.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dan says:

    Just going slightly off topic, I predict that John McCain will appear on a Sunday morning show tomorrow. Something that we rarely see.

  2. wr says:

    @Dan: And it will be EXCLUSIVE!!!!

  3. grumpy realist says:

    The number of responses to this article is in itself a meta-whatever on the sequester. Only three answers so far and two of them off topic?