I asked Lee Hannah whether he thought election-related anxiety was better or worse this cycle and his answer was succinct: “There’s plenty of evidence that it is worse,” said Hannah, an associate professor in the department of political science at Wright State University. He noted polls by Pew Research that show 83 percent of Americans believe this election really matters and far more Democrats (61%) than Republicans (37%) would be angry if their candidate loses.
Not upset or perturbed. Angry.
All of the talk about election safety only makes matters worse.
“You have concerns about electoral integrity from both parties as well as concerns about your personal health” and whether voting in-person during a pandemic is safe, Hannah said. “Moreover, some states had pretty visible debacles in their primaries that might elicit dread in some voters.” For example, New York faced huge counting delays in its primary following a flood of 400,000 mail-in ballots.
Why are people so worked up? “It’s an election that a lot of people care about, feel deeply personal about the outcome, and have very little control over,” Hannah said. That’s because people only have one vote and you can’t change the outcome through passion (or anxiety).
So how can you help yourself?
Cut back on political news. The polls will change a lot over the next few weeks, as will the highs and lows of both campaigns. Getting on that roller coaster too much only makes you sick.
Think about your voting options. Which gives you the least anxiety? Mailing in a ballot given some of the high-profile snafus or waiting in line? Which is safer for you?
The biggest thing to remember is the country will still be here when the election is over. The “other guy” might win, but hey, that’s democracy for you.
Ray Marcano, a former Dayton Daily News editor, is a media lecturer at Wright State. He’s the former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a two-time Pulitzer juror and a Fulbright fellow.