What is Electionitis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Electionitis is a condition which affects some political candidates and citizens during prolonged election cycles. This condition is characterized by a growing sense of fatigue with the election and the issues, and a tendency to express frustration with politics and the media. The best cure for electionitis is an election, which will end the cycle, although taking a few days of rest from election-related issues can help people "recharge" so that they can get through the rest of the election.

In long election cycles, voters can become fatigued by issues raised or candidate strategies deployed during campaigns.
In long election cycles, voters can become fatigued by issues raised or candidate strategies deployed during campaigns.

Several things lead to electionitis. The first is a prolonged campaign. Campaigns for major elections start months or even years before the election is scheduled to take place, and they can be grueling. For candidates, a successful campaign may require constant traveling, speeches, and meetings which can be very grinding and also very stressful for family members. Individual citizens may also grow tired of electioneering, as political campaigns are followed very closely by the media, even in their early stages.

Increased campaign spending also contributes. Each year, campaigns spend more and more money to get the word out about candidates, ballot measures, and other issues, setting up a sort of arms race of spending in which the opposition feels obliged to spend as well. If, for example, a candidate runs television ads nine months before the election, the opposition will need to respond in order to reach the voters. As a result, a blizzard of campaign advertising appears in mailboxes, on television screens, and in yards in the months leading up to an election, and the constant exposure can be tiring.

The media also contributes to electionitis, with its extensive coverage of elections and related issues. Especially in the months leading up to a major election, it may feel like the only thing the media is covering is the election, and some people regard this as election overkill. Since the media doesn't always have new breaking news to report, the coverage devolves into punditry and nitpicking analysis of every aspect of the campaign, and it sometimes even starts to bore the very commentators who are handling the election coverage.

Especially for new voters and novice political candidates, electionitis can be dizzying. It may be difficult to sift through all of the information and commentary to get useful data about candidates and issues which could be used to make an informed choice. Some people may become so fed up with the focus on the election that they tune out altogether, making uninformed choices at the polls or deciding that voting isn't even worth the effort.

There are some ways to reduce the risk of developing electionitis. For citizens, setting specific limits on the amount of media one consumes can help. For example, instead of checking news sites constantly throughout the day, people could decide to sit down once in the morning and once in the evening to look at major headlines, and to cut down on the number of sites and physical newspapers read, since the content is often the same. Reducing time spent watching television can also help, as can deciding on specific things to tune in for, such as debates. Specifying "election free nights" to socialize with friends is also a good idea.

Candidates, unfortunately, are often caught in a trap which causes them to develop electionitis. They cannot take a break from the campaign, for fear that the opposition will take advantage of that break. Specifically designating private time and unwinding periods can be a good idea. For example, a candidate could decide to go on a bike ride every morning to reduce stress, or to set aside a set period each afternoon or evening for family time.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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