How to Make the Debt Ceiling More Relevant.

How to Make the Debt Ceiling More Relevant.

  • Blog

While many of us may be on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens next, other (younger) audiences aren’t feeling the same.

Before we jump into this week’s topic, let’s begin with our Election Recap. We’re thrilled to announce the success of our microinfluencer political work this cycle. We were honored to collaborate on over 25 campaigns, to tell the stories of thousands of voters in battleground districts and states. See the results here!

The United States reaching its debt ceiling might be the biggest news story this month, but it’s not necessarily the flashiest. While many people tuning in to their regular morning news will likely hear about the debt ceiling crisis, many online users will not.

This conversation seems to be getting stuck in its own echo chamber, struggling to appeal to younger audiences.

BIG TAKEAWAY: Messaging focused on the Trump Administrations’ contributions to reaching the debt ceiling, and the Republicans’ willingness to default on national debt, can bring more people into the debate without scaring them away with difficult to understand content. 

  1. The discourse around the debt ceiling is at an all time high. 
  2. While more people are talking about the debt ceiling, the discourse seems to be trapped in an echo chamber. 
  3. Those most engaged with the debt ceiling discourse are aged 55+.

SLEEPER TAKEAWAY: Understanding the implication of the debt ceiling can be tricky. Breaking the concepts down into more bite-size, easily digestible content and playing into the partisan debate can make the discourse more appealing. 

The conversation around reaching the debt ceiling is not new in American politics, and not new online. We saw a similar debate play out online in 2021, when former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened not to raise the US debt limit, risking a default and government shutdown.

However, it is clear that the volume of discussion about the debt ceiling is far higher this time around, which is likely due to concern that this showdown might not be easily resolved. With more GOP lawmakers willing to allow a default on national debt and the Biden administration unwilling to enact the spending cuts demanded by the GOP, the debate continues.

When we look at the age distribution of self-identified Democrats and Republicans talking about the debt ceiling it is clear that the conversation about national debt is most engaging to older audiences on both sides of the aisle. Less than 15% of the debt ceiling discourse involves users under the age of 35.

A breakdown of the discourse by partisanship shows off just how much Democrats are dominating this conversation online. Democrats are 2X more likely to discuss the debt ceiling online and receive nearly 5X more engagements.

This begs the questions – How do we get younger Democrats interested in this topic? What messaging could drive engagement from those who would be impacted in the future by rising national debt?

Gen-Z users engaged in the discourse who self-identify as Democrats, while small in size, are most often mentioning Trump and his administration. This audience is quick to engage with content about the $7.8 trillion increase in national debt under Trump’s leadership.

While we find similar trends with millennials, we also find that messaging about the impact of a default on Social Security and Medicare is also a prominent theme within the discussion. Linking the faults of Trump and the GOP to easily digestible topics like cuts to social programs are increasingly gaining traction in the discourse.

Bottom line: Democrats have a chance to build on this momentum by creating easy-to-understand content for online audiences that relates to the issues they’re already passionate about. Emphasizing messaging that targets the Trump administration’s $7.8 trillion debt increase, the effects of these decisions, and the GOP’s ongoing disregard for social programs, we can broaden the audience having this conversation.

Subscribe to What the Polls Don’t Tell Us: