From the many ramifications of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, to racial unrest, to fires in the West, 2020 has been a stressful year. Add in one of the most divisive elections in decades, and there is little surprise that more than two-thirds of US adults (68%) say that the 2020 presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives. These figures are a large increase from the 2016 presidential election when 52% said the same, according to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA).
The survey also found that regardless of political affiliation, a majority of respondents say that the election is a significant source of stress (76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans, and 64% of Independents).
While the majority of Americans say that the election is a source of stress, the survey found that for some groups, stress about the election is significantly higher compared with 2016. The proportion of Black adults reporting the election as a source of stress jumped from 46% in 2016 to 71% this year.
And with health care issues continuing to dominate the news, the survey found that adults with a chronic condition are consistently more likely than those without a chronic condition to report the election as a source of stress in their lives (55% vs. 45% in 2016 and 71% vs. 64% in 2020). However, in 2020, people with chronic conditions are significantly more likely to say the election is a very significant source of stress for them (39% vs. 28%). In 2016 this response yielded no significant difference (20% vs. 17%).
In 2020, more than three-quarters of Americans (77%) say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress, up from 66% in 2019. Likewise, the current political climate is reported as a significant source of stress by more than two-thirds of Americans (68%), compared with 62% who said the same in 2019.
“This has been a year unlike any other in living memory,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr, PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Not only are we in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans, but we are also facing increasing division and hostility in the presidential election. Add to that racial turmoil in our cities, the unsteady economy and climate change that has fueled widespread wildfires and other natural disasters. The result is an accumulation of stressors that are taking a physical and emotional toll on Americans.”
American Psychological Association (2020). Stress in America™ 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. Accessed October 29, 2020.