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Voters Feel A Loss Of Control Over The Presidential Election Process


We have answers this morning to a question about this election year. We asked voters around the country why so many feel so anxious or so angry. The nationwide conversation started on MORNING EDITION and then moved to many local public stations, which heard from voters on their talk shows. Dozens of stations in dozens of cities picked up the theme of voter anxiety, including WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla., where Melissa Ross hosts a call-in show called First Coast Connect. Good morning.

MELISSA ROSS: Good morning, Steve. Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: So when you ask people why they're anxious or why they're angry, what do they say?

ROSS: By and large, the overwhelming response we got, Steve, is that people feel that they don't have any control over the process. They have this overwhelming sense, whether they're on the right or the left of the spectrum, that elites are controlling the levers of power, and that they don't have a say, whether they perceive those elites to be political or economic.

INSKEEP: Well, let's listen to what it sounded like as you brought some callers onto your program.


ROSS: Chris is in Mandarin. Hi, Chris, go ahead.

CHRIS: You were talking about the things that were making we voters a little anxious. And I'm kind of getting sick of people trying to polarize us, believing that, you know, it seems to be that if you hit one trigger point here, you can get an emotional response that will be enough to just keep people occupied for a moment while you do things behind their backs.

INSKEEP: Was the actual caller response polarized in any way?

ROSS: It can be at times. That's another overwhelming sentiment, too - this sense that the parties don't work together well, and that people are being pulled apart - the sense that common-sense solutions can't be found.

INSKEEP: When our colleague Mara Liasson kicked off this discussion early this week, she pointed to one reason for voter anxiety - an increasingly diverse country. It's on its way to becoming a majority minority country. Did people identify that as a source of anxiety in any way?

ROSS: You know, it's interesting that you say that. I'll tell you a story. Here in Jacksonville, we have one of the largest Arab-American communities in the United States. And locally, a bit of a controversy flared up when group of local politicians, including the mayor of Jacksonville, expressed concern about Syrian refugees coming into this city. Well, Jacksonville has the fifth-largest Syrian-American community in America. And so when you bring that down to the local level, the issues can become quite complex. And it's really interesting to cover and to discuss when you host a local talk show like the one I work on.

INSKEEP: Melissa Ross, host of First Coast Connect on WJCT in Jacksonville, one of dozens of stations sampling American opinion this week. Melissa, thanks.

ROSS: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.