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‘Take a little break:’ Scandal fatigue has people tuning politics out

December 20, 2018

Most people know the symptoms of fatigue are headache, weakness and irritability, but what about “scandal fatigue?”

In North Carolina and across the country, scandals have plagued the presidency, elections and even social media.

Justin Hammond feels he has an obligation to stay informed.

“I think it’s important to stay engaged civically, and I’m going to continue to vote and continue to pay attention to what’s going on,” he said.

Hammond also knows people who feel a sense of detraction overload.

“I think it’s a real issue. There’s been so much that’s been happening that a lot of people just end up tuning it out,” he said.

When the controversy, affairs, corruption and slander become too overwhelming, many may suffer from “scandal fatigue.”

Political science professor David McLennan said the phenomenon is real, and highly possible in the current climate.

“Just breaking scandal after breaking scandal, and I think people can’t differentiate between what is Russia, what is campaign finance, what is paying off the porn star. It all seems to blur together,” McLennan said.

In North Carolina, where the 2018 election is still making headlines, scandal fatigue isn’t just possible, but probable.

“So the real issue that political scientists worry about is this idea of people getting turned off, just not paying attention,” McLennan said.

McLennan said the danger of tuning everything out is that important policy issues could be developing in the midst of all the scandal.

McLennan said filtering is important in order to stay informed without becoming bogged down.

“Take a little break from it. Try to find the fact and differentiate from opinion,” he said.

McLennan says “scandal fatigue” is nothing new, and was experienced during the presidencies of both Nixon and Clinton. He says the key is to trust reliable sources and take breaks if you’re feeling inundated.

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