We’re all feeling it.
During the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric kicked up a cloud of hostility against minorities and women that has yet to settle. Trump used demagoguery and scapegoating to appeal to his base, with zero concern for its debilitating effect on the country at large. Now, five months after Trump has taken office, studies are beginning to show the negative impact his campaign had on the country’s psyche.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, “Election campaigns can have both positive and negative effects on health. Campaigns that give voice to the disenfranchised have been shown to have positive but short-term effects on health.” A recent study published by The Journal found the 2016 election was especially damaging for minorities. Sixty-nine percent of blacks, 57 percent of Asians, and 56 percent of Hispanics report that the outcome of the election was a significant source of stress. Only 42 percent of whites experienced post-election stress.
Another unfortunate result of the 2016 election is its effect on the nation’s youth. A recent study of 2000 elementary and high school teachers found that “since the 2016 presidential campaign began, they have observed an increase in racial and ethnic slurs and general hostility among students.” Sixty-seven percent of teachers said that students who were immigrants, children of immigrants, or Muslims felt fear and worry over how they or their family might be treated after the election.
The negativity propagated by the 2016 election stands in contrast to previously researched elections that created positive feelings among electorates. In 1994, South Africans experienced feelings of “psychological well-being and self-esteem” during Nelson Mandela’s election. In the United States, positive feelings were reported by minority groups during Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful 1988 presidential bid and during the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.
The silver lining in this research is that America can be made great again by supporting candidates that appeal to our better angels instead of those who stoke unfounded fears.