Trump, impeachment, Hillary, emails, Obama, Republican, Democrat. Add to that, never-ending campaigns, social media and 24/7 news. In the world we live in today, politics are impossible to escape.
The nastiness of national politics, especially, according to surveys and new research, is affecting the emotional and physical heath of some Americans.
“I do think the stress is higher today,” said Toni McGriff, of Dutton.
McGriff has been around politics a most of her life, growing up in family that cared about politics.
“My granddad was a friend of Congressman Bob Jones, and I grew up hearing politics discussed, but I don’t remember a lot of stress.”
Research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that Americans are making themselves sick over politics.
Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed for the study said politics is stressing them out, and one in five are losing sleep, or have had friendships damaged over politics.
In a separate study, “Stress in America,” a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), showed that two-thirds of Americans said the future of the nation is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, even more so than usual stressors like money or work. More than half said they consider this is the lowest point in U.S. history they can remember.
Researchers say the political stress appears to be taking a greater toll on people from the left side of the political spectrum, potentially tied to the controversial 2016 election and President Trump’s confrontational style of governing.
“We don’t know what people would have reported with previous presidents,” said APA Associate Executive Director Lynn Bufkda, adding that other researchers have cited former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as “very polarizing presidents themselves.”
McGriff, a local Democrat, said one of the biggest issues is the divisiveness between the two parties.
“Twenty-five years ago, the art of compromise and bi-partisanship was respected and expect,” said McGriff. “Today, what little there is of it happens quietly and behind the scenes. The radicals on both sides take all the camera time and headlines.”
McGriff said she believes much of stress comes from the massive impact of social media. She said newspapers and radio controlled the story until the 1950’s.
“Then television journalists like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley were trusted with the ‘truth’,” said McGriff. “Today, even without the Russian bots, we still have massive lies, distortions, rumors and outright craziness posted on Facebook every minute of every day.”
Dr. Gordon E. Harvey, of Jacksonville State University, said he puts little weight on such surveys.
“Think about it, more than 50 years ago, RFK and MLK were assassinated, and we learned that the war in Vietnam was not being won and that we had been lied to,” said Harvey. “We were just off the most significant worldwide student revolt in history, and the White House had to be surrounded by the National Guard for fear that protesters might invade it. Many observers feared for the fate of the nation.”
Harvey said you can go back even further to more than 100 years ago.
“1919,” said Harvey. “One of the bloodiest wars in world history had just ended. We were witnessing the rebirth of the Klan in response to immigration and European political issues. We were under the first Red Scare following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, so much so that we passed laws restricting basic speech. There were race riots in Chicago.
Harvey said he could go on and on.
“My point is politics have never not been stressful,” he said. “We just lack perspective.”