Election anxiety is real. A majority of Americans report 'significant stress' due to 2016.

Brian Resnick
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds babies at a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., July 29, 2016.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Election chatter is filled with hyperbole — dished out by candidates, pundits, and voters. But this year, the vitriol is acute. Donald Trump has called Hillary Clinton "the devil" and threatened to imprison her during the second presidential debate if he became president. The New York Times editorial board called Trump the "worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history."

So it shouldn't be surprising that the majority of Americans are stressed the heck out about the election.

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The American Psychological Association has released some preliminary data from its upcoming annual "Stress in America" report, on the nation's level of anxiety specifically around this election.

Around half of people surveyed (52 percent) say the election "is a very or somewhat significant" source of stress in their lives. The breakdown by party is about even: 59 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say this election is causing them stress.

The APA also breaks the responses down by age and demographics.

The survey of 3,255 Americans living in the US, conducted in August, was weighted to reflect the demographics of the country. A caveat: The participants all agreed to an online psychological research survey. That self-selecting group may not perfectly capture the average American.

Regardless, these results are pretty intuitive (have you been reading the news?). The two presidential candidates are historically unpopular.

The APA doesn't have historical data on the anxiety of past elections, so it's hard to say if this one is provoking more than usual.

But a few other polls have also found that Americans are feeling a great many negative emotions about this campaign:

  • In September, the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of voters said they were "disgusted" with the campaign.
  • Just 15 percent said the campaign made then "optimistic," and fewer still (10 percent) said they were "excited."
  • In July, Gallup reported that 51 percent of adults said they "were afraid of the election outcome."
  • And voters seem to be more anxious about a Trump presidency than a Clinton presidency. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found in August that 70 percent said a Trump win would make them "anxious." Fifty-one percent said the same about Clinton.

Then again, it's not unusual for the electorate to feel a bit spooked around presidential races.

In 2004, Gallup found that 90 percent of registered voters agreed the "stakes in this presidential election are higher than in previous years." (As far as I can tell, they haven't asked the question since.) This year, surprisingly, Gallup found 85 percent agreed with that statement.