You talked politics with your mother, brother, bartender and banker, and all it did was jack up your blood pressure.
You know that you are not alone. In this divisive period in American politics, two professors in Nebraska and one in California decided to conduct a survey in March 2017 to see how pervasive were high stress, conflict with family and friends, and even health problems related to thinking and talking about politics.
The three — Kevin Smith and John Hibbing, political science professors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Hibbing’s son, Matthew, an associate professor at the University of California, Merced — wrote a paper on their findings last year. They expect it to be published in a journal this year.
- 38% said politics has caused them to be stressed.
- 31.8% said exposure to media outlets promoting a contrary view “can drive me crazy.”
- 29.3% said they had lost their temper because of politics.
- 25.6% said they spend more time thinking about politics than they want to.
- 23.3% said politics compelled them to think seriously about moving.
- 16.9% said politics has created problems for them in their extended families.
- 16.6% said politics at times has made their home life less pleasant.
About 800 people took the survey through YouGov, a polling firm that recruited a demographically representative sample of American adults for the survey.
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John Hibbing said some people have expressed surprise that the findings weren’t more dramatic.
“Sometimes, people are reluctant to ’fess up to things” like stress and conflict, he said. Also, “We have to remember that a lot of people just don’t care about politics.”
Hibbing hopes to continue the survey through the years to make comparisons. The survey report says: “It may be that the costs of politics were unusually acute when this survey was administered, just two months after the inauguration of an extremely polarizing president.” On the other hand, the report says, the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama were labeled by some as “the most polarizing ever.”
Larry Kavich, a retired Omaha businessman who splits time between Omaha and Arizona, said he had regularly eaten Friday lunch with two friends at the Arizona Bread Company in Scottsdale. But the day after Trump was sworn in, one of the men derided Kavich for supporting Trump.
“How could you support that blah-blah-blah?” the friend asked.
“I walked away and said, ‘He’s not worthy of my friendship,’ ” Kavich said. He hasn’t spent time with that man since, but he has with the other friend in the group.
Kavich, 74, said he has felt compelled to remove the Trump-Pence bumper sticker from his car because of the looks he receives. “I have a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat and would not wear it out here in Arizona. I wouldn’t wear it anywhere. There are too many wackos out there.”
Mary McNamee, a retired nurse educator and administrator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said she and some of her acquaintances stay away from discussions of politics. “We’re going to avoid that topic,” said McNamee, 74, who volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign. These are hard times, she said, and people need to think about how to get along.
Watching news on television all day can be upsetting, she said.
“You make it much worse by hearing it over and over and over again,” she said.
As she spoke, she visited a 95-year-old aunt in New Orleans who was constantly dialed in to Fox News. McNamee said she, her husband, sister and aunt would leave politics alone on this visit.
Ellen Shively, 64, married Jerry Wissing in October, and they knew that they held opposite political perspectives. Like McNamee, Shively said she and her husband have decided to remove politics as a routine topic of conversation. Shively, a graphic designer and a liberal Democrat, said that when politics comes up, anger can follow.
Wissing, 65, agreed that politics is touchy between him and his wife. He supports Trump. “What I always say is, ‘Let’s just wait and see what happens,’ ” he said.
“There’s so many things in life to have stress about,” said Wissing, a software developer. “You can’t let things that you can’t control cause stress in your life.
Shively said she and her husband try to give each other plenty of space when it comes to politics.
“We just stay away from it,” Shively said. “The only thing I can say is the president stresses me out.”
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Omaha Burke's Jaylon Roussell jogged the field people to participating in the Nebraska Cornhuskers Friday Night Lights event at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
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Michigan's Jordan Brewer and Jack Blomgren celebrated after defeating Vanderbilt in their College World Series game.
A B-2 stealth bomber flew over as Michigan stands during the National Anthem before their College World Series game.
Vanderbilt faces Michigan during their College World Series game.
Vanderbilt's Harrison Ray signed autographs before the start of game 3 of the CWS championship.
Vanderbilt fans celebrate at the Commodores capture a national title with a win over Michigan.
Michigan players mingled prior to their College World Series game against Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt celebrated their win over Michigan during the third game of the champion series of the College World Series.
Chris Isaak performed at the free Memorial Park Concert at Memorial Park.
Omaha firefighter David Kirchofer provided water to Louie the dog, after Kirchofer helped battle a a fire at 5427 86th Court. Louie, who does not live in the unit that caught fire, was interested in all the action.
Ray Renk of San Francisco, California, holds his daughter Kennedy, 8, alongside his son Benjamin, 10, while sporting personalized suits and watching Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, walk the convention floor during the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting at the CHI Health Center Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, Saturday, May 4, 2019.
Phoebe the giraffe eats lettuce fed by visitors as the Lincoln Children's Zoo provides a sneak peek at their new exhibits and expansion in Lincoln, Nebraska, Thursday, May 9, 2019.
Lincoln Southeast’s Katie Whitehead, center, and Caroline Miller, right, celebrate with teammates including Ally Keitges, left, after winning the No. 1 doubles against Millard North during the NSAA Class A girls state tennis championship match at Koch Family Tennis Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Friday, May 17, 2019.
Omaha Bryanâ€™s Darwin Loftin lands a long jump during the Metro Conference track meet at Omaha Burke.
Millard West's Corbin Hawkins waits out the rain delay in the dugout. The baseball game between Millard West and Creighton Prep was postponed because of the weather.
Archbishop Bergan's Luke Jessen hits the center field wall trying to catch a hit from Millard West's Max Anderson resulting in an in-field home run during their state tournament game.
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Gretna's Ashley Marsh connects with the ball alongside Marian's Maureen Tolley during the semifinal round of the Class A girls state soccer tournament at Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, Saturday, May 11, 2019.
Elkhorn South players celebrate their championship while reading the name plate on the trophy after defeating Skutt during the NSAA Class B girls state soccer championship game Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
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Hannah Gruhlkey hugs her goat Griffin as he nibbles on her hair during a Country Bumpkin 4-H Club meeting at the Living Legend Farm.
Chipper Fyfe stands on a dike to see how far floodwaters have risen just west of Hamburg, Iowa.
Nebraska pitchers stay loose before their NCAA Regional game in Oklahoma City.
Tad Badje, 49, right, and wife Shelly Badje, 48, pepper Title Boxing Club's general manager, Chris Gerhardt's mid-section during a two-on-one body shot race as part of their work out at Title Boxing Club in Omaha, Nebraska.
Two-year-old Hannah Bonnot of Denver, Colorado, stands in awe before "Mountain Outlaw" taken at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, on display at Tom Mangelsen's "Life in the Wild" exhibition at the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.
A deer walks through the tall grass at Chalco Hills Recreation Area in Omaha, Nebraska.
Canada geese fly over Flanagan Lake at sunset in Omaha, Nebraska.
The sunset is reflected in some open water at Flanagan Lake in Omaha, Nebraska.
Ian Murphy, canvases the nearly 90 snow people which are on display at the Leavenworth Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Neighbors such as Murphy say the snow people didn't exist yesterday and claim it happened over night or possibly early this morning.
Husker fans rock The Rock and corn hats in the first half as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln men's basketball team hosts Michigan State at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
An allosaurus appears to be eyeing a tasty, 19-month-old morsel named Austin Haseltine as he is lifted from the shoulders of his grandpa, Greg Fasano, by his mother, Amy Haseltine, with his father, Jim Haseltine looking on. The Dinosaur UpROAR exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft Street in Omaha, Nebraska, features 20 life-sized installations as well as discovery stations and educational activities set throughout the gardens.
The setting moon is framed by some dried flowers at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Nebraska.
A person goes for a run along the snow covered trails at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Nebraska.
The sun rises on a snow covered Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Nebraska.
Pink and blue balloons float past the Sower statue on the Nebraska State Capitol after balloons were released for the 45th annual Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Steam rises over north downtown Omaha, Nebraska, as morning lows were below -10 degrees.
Water covers a road near Valley, Nebraska, on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Heavy machinery stacks up concrete chunks on the shore of the Elkhorn River at the Q Street bridge as part of an effort to stabilize the bank on the recently flooded river.
Sarpy County Sheriff's Deputy Darin Morrissey rides an ATV through floodwaters in Hawaiian Village.
Omaha Roncalli's Shane Orr celebrates their double overtime win over Aurora during a semifinal game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Auburn bench and crowd react to Auburn's Cameron Binder hitting what would be the game winning shot against North Bend Central during the championship game in the Class C1 Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Nebraskaâ€™s Adrian Martinez runs out of the end zone after a play during spring football practice at the Hawks Championship Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Treyton Gubser, left, and his uncle Daniel Gubser paddle using shovels through the floodwaters after they rescued Daniel's kid's cat, Bob, in Hamburg, Iowa.
Highway 81 is covered in floodwaters south of Columbus, Nebraska.
A Nebraska National Guard helicopter flies over a flooded Waterloo, Nebraska, in March.
Cars drive drive across a flooded Platte River on Highway 50 just north of Louisville, Nebraska.
A Canada goose flies over Matthew J. Placzek's "Monument to Labor" sculpture as floodwaters from the Missouri River begin to recede on the Omaha riverfront.
Floodwaters closed Ave I at North 26th Street in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
A truck drives through a flooded road near the Platte River in April.
Lincoln Pius X's Austin Jablonski holds up the net after his team defeated Omaha Roncalli in the championship game in the Class B Nebraska state basketball tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Amelia Fritz, right, holds on to her daughter-in-law Tesha Fritz in Glenwood, Iowa. They were evacuated from Pacific Junction, Iowa, after floodwaters hit the town last night. They were part of 15-relatives all staying in the same house or in a camper in the front driveway.