Bloomberg reports that for 10 years, the American Psychological Association (APA) has been running a”Stress in America” survey, usually finding that stress is caused by three primary factors—money, work, and the economy.
Then came the 2016 presidential election.
So the APA added some election-related questions to its annual poll last August, and found that more than half of Americans (52%), both Democrats and Republicans, were anxious about the vote. Last month, just before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the APA conducted an additional poll to check on the nation’s mental health. The poll found that Americans’ stress levels in January were worse than in August: 57% of respondents said the current political climate was a very or somewhat significant source of stress.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll of 6,426 people across all 50 states in January-February, taken 3 months after the 2016 election, found that the rancor has not dissipated as it has in the aftermath of other recent contentious U.S. elections. The gulf between Republicans and Democrats actually widened from hardening of ideological positions, which makes political compromise more difficult and increases distrust in government. (Source: Reuters)
The contention and stress show in workplace, marriage, and friendship.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, a new survey by BetterWorks Systems Inc. found that employees are spending a substantial chunk of their work hours reading, chatting and even clashing with their colleagues about politics, which leaves less time and attention for employees’ actual jobs. The poll of 500 full-time working adults conducted from January 31 to February 2 after President Trump’s first days in office found that:
- 29% of workers report being less productive since the election.
- 87% are reading social-media posts about politics during the workday.
- More than a fifth read 20 or more posts, which adds up to an average of two hours a day spent talking or reading about politics.
- 22% spend three or more hours each day on such activities.
- Almost a third of those surveyed said their co-workers spend more time talking about politics than work.
- Nearly half said they have seen a political conversation morph into an argument at the office since the November election.
Family and Friends
The January-February Reuters/Ipsos poll found that:
- 17% said they had blocked a family member or close friend on social media because of the election, up 3 percentage points from October.
- 39% of respondents reported arguing with family and friends over politics — a 6% increase since the height of the 2016 campaign last October.
- 16% said they have stopped talking to a family member or friend because of the election — a phenomenon that more characterizes Democrat/Hillary voters, 22% of whom said they have stopped talking to a family member or friend.
- Overall, 13% of respondents had gone beyond not talking to ending a relationship with a family member or close friend over the election, compared to 12% last October.
Arguing over Trump has become a bitter reality for many Americans. Some personal anecdotes:
- Sue Koren, 57, a Clinton supporter in Dayton, Ohio, said she can barely speak to her two Trump-backing sons and has unfriended “maybe about 50” people on Facebook who support Trump. She said, “Life is not what it was before the election. It’s my anger, my frustration, my disbelief. They think our current president is a hero and I think he’s a nut.”
- George Ingmire, 48, a radio documentary producer in New Orleans, said he broke off a close relationship with an uncle who had helped him through his father’s suicide because of his uncle’s fervent support for Trump. Ingmire said, “We had some back and forth and it just got really deep, really ugly. I don’t see this ever being fixed.”
- LeShanda Loatman, 35, a black Republican real estate agent from Delaware who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, has severed ties on social media with former co-workers and old friends over their support for Trump and their criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Rob Brunello, 25, a truck driver of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, said he’s faced a backlash from friends and family for backing Trump. Brunello said, “It’s been pretty rough for me. People couldn’t believe Trump could beat Hillary. They are having a hard time adjusting to it.”
- William Lomey, 64, a retired cop in Philadelphia, no longer speaks with a gay friend he grew up with after they clashed on Facebook over the election. Lomey said, “Once people found out I had voted for Trump the stuff started flying. I questioned him on a few things, he didn’t like it, he blew up and left me a nasty message and we haven’t talked since.”
Political and partisan divisions even broke up marriages.
Gayle McCormick, 73, a retired California prison guard who’s a self-described “Democrat leaning toward socialist,” separated from her husband of 22 years when he casually mentioned during a lunch with friends last year that he planned to vote for Trump – a revelation she described as a “deal breaker.” McCormick felt “betrayed” by her husband’s support for Trump: “It totally undid me that he could vote for Trump. I felt like I had been fooling myself. It opened up areas between us I had not faced before. I realized how far I had gone in my life to accept things I would have never accepted when I was younger.”
Eventually, McCormick’s husband changed his mind about Trump and wrote in former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich in November. By then, McCormick had decided to strike out on her own. While the couple plans to vacation together and will not get divorced because “we’re too old for that,” McCormick recently settled in her own place in Bellingham, Washington because “It really came down to the fact I needed to not be in a position where I had to argue my point of view 24/7. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that.”
Some good news
The Reuters/Ipsos poll also found that:
- Many people reported their relationships have not suffered because of the election. About 40% had not argued with a family member or friend over the race.
- The election also enabled a significant number to forge new bonds: 21% said they became friends with someone they did not know because of the election.
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