"It's clear this is not just about politics, but deeply held beliefs," one reader said in response to a Seattle Times story that explored how the Trump and Clinton campaigns have complicated friendships, marriages and other relationships.
Late last month, a family gathering for Kathy Anderson turned sour. Everyone was in a good mood, celebrating a birthday, until the upcoming presidential election came up, the Bellevue woman said, exposing her siblings’ differences.
One sister is for Donald Trump. Another is undecided. Anderson, however, supports Hillary Clinton.
“I got so angry that I forbade any conversation in the house about politics for the rest of the visit,” she said in an email. “My outburst took all of us by surprise (even me), but I wouldn’t back down.”
Behind the Vote
About the SeriesThe Seattle Times is exploring how the state’s political geography — from wheat country to Seattle’s tech centers, from suburbia to pulp-mill towns — is shifting in this historic election year.
- Blue-collar jobs in timber and manufacturing continue to wane, leaving a cadre of traditionally Democratic voters economically and politically adrift.
- The state’s Latino population is on the rise. But during last year’s general election in Yakima County — now home to as many Latinos as whites — only a small percentage of voters with Spanish surnames voted.
- Puget Sound suburbs, once reliable ground for Republican candidates, are growing bluer as college-educated women tend to vote Democratic.
- GOP voters in reliably Republican Lincoln County struggle with Trump — but he’ll win there anyway.
- Even in close families and friendships, presidential politics has created such a strain that some people have agreed to stop talking until the election is over.
The end of the 2016 presidential election is five weeks away. But for some Washington couples, families and friends, Election Day can’t come soon enough.
Dozens across the political spectrum have contacted The Seattle Times in recent weeks to say the Trump and Clinton campaigns have tangled their personal relationships and caused volatile arguments with loved ones and friends. Her email is one of numerous reader responses to The Seattle Times’ story, “When politics get personal: Families, friends feud over Clinton vs. Trump.”
That piece features a pair of friends, Ernie Lou and Tod Steward, who say the campaign season has made their hangouts sometimes tense. A mother and son also said the election has taken a toll, though at home. Some respondents call the polarization unlike anything they have experienced before.
Of the recent story, one Seattle Times commenter said: “This reminds me of a co-worker who said, ‘I was listening to Rush, and …’ That was the end of that.”
Another Seattle Times commenter, like Anderson, said family members have recognized their differing values.
“I’m not sure our relationship will ever return to what it was before,” the commenter said. “There’s no active fighting, but the tension and discomfort that comes from avoiding all of this makes things awkward and weird. There’s also suspicion on both sides in terms of influences on grandchildren. Interaction has just plummeted. It’s clear this is not just about politics, but deeply held beliefs. Sad.”
On Facebook, Elizabeth Lane Furdell agreed: The current division is “more than just politics.”
“These differences are so fundamental they go to the heart of who we are as people,” she wrote.
For Pam Small of Stanwood, Snohomish County, she feels the tension in her home.
“Very much black and white thinking going on under our roof,” she wrote in an email. “My husband and I cannot broach any subject connected to the presidential election. The result is deadlock.”
According to a study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, voters in the two major parties are now further apart from each other than at any point over the last quarter-century. Mark Smith, who teaches political science at the University of Washington, said that division can lead to strain on marriages and other intimate relationships.
Some respondents to The Seattle Times said they have stopped associating with friends and relatives who support different candidates. Others said they have gone on social-media diets to avoid the debate. Many just said they are disappointed in both Clinton and Trump, and they share that feeling with those around them.
And the division, some said, goes beyond those two candidates. One person wrote in to say the “Jill-Not-Hill” mentality, pertaining to Green Party candidate Jill Stein, is tearing family members apart. Another said supporters of former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders feel split: those who will vote for Clinton and those who won’t.
Gloria Baker, 87, said she and her 90-year-old friend, who lives in Oregon, are on opposite sides of the political unrest. Several months ago, Baker said, she set up rules for their phone calls so their decades-long friendship would survive.
“Neither of us can mention the candidates, the parties or anything pertaining to the election or I will hang up,” Baker said in an email. “It’s been hard for her. Once in awhile she forgets. Yes, I still hang up. She calls me back, and we pretend nothing happened.”
Heidi Wills of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood supports Clinton, while her father suports Trump. They are close, though now speaking less to get through the election season, the daughter said.
“I look forward to getting through this election so we don’t have to continue holding our tongues,” she said. “I know I can’t change my father’s opinion anymore than he can change mine.”
Material from Seattle Times archives was included in this report.