Angry. Fearful. Anxious. Confused. Frustrated.
If there’s one word that’s not being used to describe voter sentiment this election cycle, it’s apathetic.
The Sept. 26 debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew 84 million TV viewers, a record viewership for a presidential debate, according to Nielsen figures. And that doesn’t count the folks who watched online.
Americans have always been passionate about their candidates, and everybody knows politics is a full-contact sport.
But 2016 is something else. Much of the anxiety comes from the fiery rhetoric of Republican nominee Donald Trump. But the GOP can’t take all the blame. There’s an equal amount of nail biting over the Democratic slate, especially the nagging distrust of Hilary Clinton.
Even mental-health professionals are feeling some agita. “I myself am a little topsy-turvy about it,” says Angela D’Antonio, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Wesley College in Dover. “I think I need to ask somebody what to do instead of being the person telling others what to do.”
If emotions are running wild this election year, it’s because this is a wildly atypical election. “As a political scientist, I would have predicted that as we got closer to the election, the parties would have come to the middle—and that really hasn’t happened here,” says Samuel Hoff, Ph.D., professor of political science at Delaware State University in Dover.
Hoff compares 2016 to the 1964 dustup between Republican Barry Goldwater and Democrat Lyndon Johnson, the contest that brought ideology into American politics as well as the Democratic slogan: “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”
And when conservative and liberal extremes dominate, conflict is sure to follow. “You have some people who are afraid of change, and then there are people who are demanding change—and those two groups are colliding,” D’Antonio says.
So, what can you do to calm your nerves before you pull that lever? Hoff and D’Antonio have some ideas.