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Is Anxiety Fueling Your Decision Making In The 2016 Election?

Last week, we asked people in Las Vegas to be part of our conversation about the 2016 election, specifically how anxiety is fueling decision making during this election.  

We received a lot of comments some from people who sent us emails, some from people who called in during the live broadcast and some from people producer Carrie Kaufman talked to on the street.

Brian from Las Vegas left a voicemail:

My political anxiety is solely focused on one candidate and that is Donald Trump. This man appears to be unhinged… The main thing that bothers me, his slogan: Make America great again. Really Donald, I always thought America was a great country.

Jack de Golia from Henderson wrote in an email:

What I'm fearful of is extremism, not just on the part of ISIS, but especially by American extremists, be they Republicans or followers of the Donald Trump or the Bundys.

They argue that the government is both too big and then when it comes to national security, not big enough.  I don't think the federal government is too big, I think it's too underfunded by people who want it to fail.  When it does they proclaim, "See, it doesn't work!"  Once they've set that mindset up, no wonder some who fall for this deceit then fear the government can't protect us. 

I won't be surprised if we have more terrorist attacks--there's just too many people and too many ways for someone intent on doing something harmful from succeeding.  The wonder is that we haven't had more attacks, not that we've had any since 9/11.

Finally, I recall President Franklin Roosevelt's injunction in 1933, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  And to American extremists, I say: go chill out. 

Frank Rogers was with his son Christopher at the grocery store when he talked to us about his concerns about crime in Las Vegas.

Kyanna told us she was worried about losing President Barack Obama and what that will mean in the fight against terror.

Osavio doesn’t think young voters are as involved as they should be.

Josh and is mother Maryann do not like President Obama but they’re not sure they like the other candidates either.

Leo Brown believes Donald Trump will destroy our standing in the international community

Faye is unhappy about Medicare.

Nicholas is from Iran. He has three engineering degrees but has not been able to find work in his field.

Rose Jones believes we as a society can do better. She thinks we all need to figure out how to live together.

A caller told us he thinks the media is blowing things out of proportion and in reality we are much safer than we have ever been.

A woman from Las Vegas left us a voicemail saying that she gets more anxious when she hears about Donald Trump. She turns off the radio when talk of politics comes up.

Cassia Lopez said there are problems that are making people anxious but those problems are causing people to look more closely at what the candidates are saying.

Another caller told us there is nothing to be anxious about, pointing out that we are more prosperous than we have ever been.

Jim Green doesn’t like any of the presidential candidates.

James Derby is concerned about the job market and believes many people in Las Vegas and Henderson are unemployed or underemployed

Political Scientists weigh in:


Eric Herzik is the chair of the political science department at University of Nevada Reno. He said it is not Donald Trump by himself that is making some voters anxious.

"Trump is a polarizing figure," Herzik said, "And Trump is probably the campaign rhetoric or theme on steroids. Almost all of the, particularly, Republican candidates are saying, 'America has lost it. We're bad.''

Herzik also pointed out that Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt, who is running for the Democratic nomination, is pushing the idea that America has lost its way, just in a different way.

"Bernie Sanders is saying it with a softer tone, but he's also saying, 'America's broken. The average person doesn't stand a chance. It's not a fair game. They are really feeding, particularly to their supporters, this notion of fear and decline."

Herzik said many politicians are touting this idea that the economy is in decline but the numbers tell a different tale. 

"But often times in a campaign, facts don't matter," he said. "It's what people believe."

Tiffany Howard is an associate professor of political science at UNLV. She said Trump’s lack of a plan worries political scientists and those who track politics.

“He is not a conservative,” she said, “He is not. And he is able to form sort of a broad coalition based upon something that is real. Fear is real, but it is not something to build a country upon.”

Howard believes the fear of the 'other' is part of the reason people are worried. 

"When you have an economy, even though it is improving and there are positive signs, when it's not completely strong, that's where this fear comes from," she said, "If you notice everything - Ebola, terrorism, immigration - it is all surrounding 'the other.' People coming to the United States who are not like us and what we consider the common American ethnicity or common American values."

She also says anxiety and fear is sparked by America's changing culture and population.

"...We have this white Anglo-Saxon Protestant background and common culture and ethnicity and now that's not the dominate culture," she noted, "That will be displaced within the next 50 years and so that is unsettling." 

From NPR: Here's Why Voters Are So Anxious This Election

Tiffany Howard, political science associate professor, UNLV;  Eric Herzik, chair of political science department, UNR 

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)