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Q&A: 2024 Election Coverage Prompting Burnout? You're Not Alone

CU Anschutz psychiatrist talks about combating election coverage fatigue and the importance of diversifying news sources

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Written by Kelsea Pieters on March 26, 2024

Feeling déjà vu watching coverage of this year’s presidential election? You’re not alone. Below, Steven Berkowitz, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, talks about how this feeling of repetition can cause apathy, dread or general media burnout – and how important it is to stay involved.

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Do you feel this election and news cycle is different from others in the past? How is coverage changing?

We already know who the nominees will be. There hasn’t been as much traditional activity as there has been in the past. Much news is focused on people leaving Congress due to its dysfunction, causing anxiety about the direction of the Congress in the future. Also, we now accept extreme viewpoints and hear them constantly. I think this causes a lot of concern. We have the two oldest presidential candidates in history. This has resulted in much apathy among voters. There is much concern that many people will not vote. The ever-increasing amount of political social media spots causes one to tune out as they are inundated with requests. I get lots of emails and texts from candidates all over the country that I know nothing about.

What can constant exposure to this coverage do to us?

People generally react in two distinct ways: One is to become more anxious and worried about the country’s future, and two is to tune out and become disinterested and simply escape the issues. 

How widespread is election fatigue?

Most people I talk with are not paying much attention given the current reality of the nominees being set. They have yet to pay attention to the local primaries as again, most are already settled. Social media is the primary culprit in tuning out. 

What can happen if we chose to avoid media altogether, or are selective about our sources?

For many, it is too early to get immersed in the media. Selecting one’s sources can be quite problematic and can result in poor decision-making regarding elections. It becomes a type of group think that causes one’s judgement to turn off. There are several studies demonstrating that increasing peoples’ awareness using various sources changes their opinion. I have seen this firsthand with family members. 

What are some ways to avoid apathy and stay engaged?

Focus on issues that are important to you. What creates fire in your belly or keeps you up at night. It could be healthcare, tax reform, the environment, etc. And do what you can to support your position. 

What advice do you have for the well-informed among us who choose to remain disengaged due to burnout?

I think similar to above. What is the issue that is most important to you? It could be local issues, such as the unhoused, water issues, etc. Just find that thing, and focus on it.

What advice do you have for the average news media consumer ahead of election day?

Limit the amount of news that you watch. Also, watch different outlets with different perspectives. Delve into the issues with print media. Stay away from too much social media hysteria.

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Steven Berkowitz, MD