Who is America, Really?

With midterm election noise at full tilt, HuffPost‘s new platform shows what’s really on Americans’ minds—without the political filter.

If there’s one thing that HuffPost Executive Editor Hillary Frey learned from the publication’s 2017 Listen to America bus tour, it was the value of authentic listening, unfiltered by any sort of political framing. In Episode 5 of Achieve Great Things, Frey joins us for an unfiltered conversation of her own, talking about major insights from the tour.

Listen to America interviewed more than 1,700 Americans from all walks of life, all over the country, during the fall of 2017. Partnering with local community organizations, HuffPost gave people space to talk about their concerns and hopes for their communities. Afterwards, they turned to our team of linguists at Hattaway Communications to analyze the data and turn it into a just-released digital platform that allows people to explore these conversations for themselves.

In some ways, Frey says, the most meaningful takeaway was what people didn’t talk about. People tended to focus on enduring, kitchen-table issues like jobs, the economy, and housing affordability, along with race relations and community cohesion. Passing political news—even the national “me too” movement, just beginning at the time, and President Trump’s daily Twitter antics—didn’t really come up. “When you step outside of political frames and ask them about their hope for themselves and their families,” notes Pete Tontillo, who led Hattaway’s work on the project, “you start to see common threads in the way Americans all over the country are talking about these big issues.”

From Des Moines and Albuquerque to Charlottesville and Birmingham, “people couldn’t believe it when we came to talk to them about their concerns,” recalls Frey. “Once they knew we weren’t steering them someplace, they just opened up. And that was really the goal.”

You can listen to this episode directly here or through the player below, and check out Listen to America here. You can also subscribe to Achieve Great Things on iTunes here.

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