Americans are so-o sensitive to this issue. I say, get over it. Does it matter? Or more specifically, does it matter to a thinking person? A person who researches, learns and debates issues with friends and family?
Applause is a way an audience attempts to sway a "popularity" contest. Anyone who votes based on the "clap-o-meter" is an idiot. I've also seen candidates form their responses to receive those applause....now this is sad.
I say, go for it, clap away. Watch a session of the British House of Commons debate and you'll know what I mean.