It doesn’t appear to matter if you’re a man or a woman.
Or a Democrat or a Republican.
Or how old you are.
Or what ethnicity you are.
This year’s presidential election is stressing out a lot of people.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has released a survey that concludes that 52 percent of adults in the United States are very or somewhat stressed about the 2016 presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
While most U.S. presidential elections are divisive and nerve-racking, this year’s campaign has been particularly stressful.
Voters have seen harsh campaign rhetoric as well as an onslaught on information, discussion, and polls on social media.
There is also the length of the U.S. campaign season, which dwarfs what other countries have.
Whatever the cause, APA officials feel the 2016 election has become so stressful that they issued some recommendations on how to deal with the heightened anxiety.
“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican — U.S. adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, said in a statement. “Election stress becomes exacerbated by arguments, stories, images, and video on social media that can heighten concern and frustration, particularly with thousands of comments that can range from factual to hostile or even inflammatory.”
Stress across the board
The APA commissioned the Harris Poll to conduct their survey.
The pollsters queried 3,511 adults online between Aug. 5 and Aug. 31 on their stress levels related to the presidential campaign.
More than half of those surveyed said they feel at least significant stress over the election. That anxiety level cut across demographic lines.
In all, 59 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats said they’re stressed over the presidential campaign.
Gender didn’t seem to matter either. The pollsters said 52 percent of females and 51 percent of males said they’re feeling campaign stress.
The stress seems to cross over most ethnic lines, too. About 56 percent of Hispanic respondents, 52 percent of both white and Native American respondents, 46 percent of black respondents, and 43 percent of Asian-American respondents said they are experiencing campaign anxiety.
And all generations reported high levels of stress. The survey showed 59 percent of “matures” (age 71 and older), 56 percent of millennials, 50 percent of baby boomers, and 45 percent of generation X were stressed out.
In addition, 60 percent of Americans with disabilities reported being stressed about the election.
This year is different
U.S. presidential campaigns have always been tough.
Chris Lehane, a political expert who served as an advisor to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, once said the final few months of a major election are like “a knife fight in a phone booth.”
He even based a screenplay, “Knife Fight,” on that assertion.
However, the 2016 presidential campaign has some extra elements.
Technology is one of them.
Nearly 4 in 10 people surveyed by the APA said political material posted on social media has caused them stress. Of people who use social media, 54 percent said the campaign is stressful compared to 45 percent of people who don’t use social media.
It was estimated last year that half a billion’s worth of campaign dollars would be spent on social media.
A 2012 study found that Facebook feeds have a significant impact on voting patterns.
Another study concluded that 41 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 25 had participated in some kind of political discussion or activity online.
Besides the volume of data bombarding people, there’s also the length of the campaign season.
When the 2016 presidential campaign ends, it will have lasted 596 days from the announcement of the first candidate. It’ll be 281 days since the first primary caucus.
Compare that to Canada where in August 2015, parliament was dissolved and new elections were called. That campaign lasted 78 days, drawing complaints because it was significantly longer than recent other elections.
Other countries have seen the need to shorten their campaigns by law.
Mexico passed legislation in 2007 that limits campaigns to 147 days. The campaigning has to stop three days before the election, too.
In Japan, the campaign season is legally limited to 12 days.
Harsh language common
Then, there’s the harshness of the language in the 2016 campaign.
During the primary campaign, Trump belittled some of his Republican opponents with nicknames such as “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco.” That extended to “Crooked Hillary” in the general election campaign.
Trump’s opponents have fired back with personal criticism of their own. Then, there was the 2005 tape released early this month in which Trump was caught talking about women in vulgar terms.
That tape prompted First Lady Michelle Obama to deliver an emotional, stinging rebuke in a speech in New Hampshire on Thursday.
In response to all this, more than 3,000 therapists have formed a group called Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism. They say the campaign is aimed at an ideology, not necessarily a person.
A survey the group commissioned in September revealed that 60 percent of respondents said they have some emotional distress related to the 2016 campaign. About 90 percent said their stress was greater than in previous elections.
A member of the group told CNN this week that two-thirds reported that the stress was primarily caused by the Trump campaign, although they said the Clinton campaign has also raised stress levels.
CNN also reported that in a survey taken in April, schoolteachers reported a “Trump effect” in classrooms, especially among students of color.
One teacher said she had a Muslim student who was afraid he’d have to wear a microchip identifying him as a Muslim.
How to cope
Officials at the APA have listed several ways to help cope with the election stress.
First, they recommend people limit their media consumption, especially during the “24-hour news cycle of claims and counterclaims.”
“Read just enough to stay informed,” the recommendation states.
It also advises people take a break from election news and go on a walk or spend time with family and friends.
APA officials also say avoid getting into political discussions you feel could easily escalate.
They say worrying about things that might happen in the future is not productive. They say after the Nov. 8 election life will still go on.
“Our political system and the three branches of government mean that we can expect a significant degree of stability immediately after a major transition of government,” the recommendation states.
Finally, APA officials recommend you vote. They say that can make you feel like you are taking a pro-active step. And don’t just cast a ballot on the presidential race. Vote on state and local issues, too.