MPSA 2020: Conference in a Conference

Emotions in Politics

Panel 4: Let's talk about anger

Saturday, April 18th 1:15 – 2:45pm, Location TBA

Emotions in motion – How appraisals sway emotional responses to politics

Author: Isabella Rebasso, G Schumacher, B N. Bakker

Brief Overview: This experimental study, conducted in fall 2019, shows whether appraisal dimensions expressed in text shape citizens’ emotional responses (anger, fear, or guilt) to politics.

Abstract: Previous work has shown the vital role of emotions in politics: anger fuels participation, guilt demobilizes,  anxiety sparks curiosity. But what determines our emotional reactions to political communication? Appraisal theory holds that emotions emerge out of evaluations of a situation along the relevant appraisal dimensions: certainty, human control and responsibility. In this paper, I theorize and test whether variations in the appraisal dimensions cause specific emotions. We test the following pre-registered hypotheses: When political issues are framed with high certainty, human control and other-responsibility anger is evoked. Fear is evoked when issues are framed with low certainty and low human control. Finally, we expect guilt to occur when issues are framed with high, certainty, human control and self-responsibility.  A pre-registered study conducted in the fall of 2019 and consisting of three rounds of a 2^3 factorial design allows us to test these hypotheses. Emotional responses to reports on data security, anti-vaxxers, and river contamination in the Netherlands will be measured using self-reports. Results of the study will show whether appraisal dimensions in text shape citizens’ emotional responses to politics. 

Using emotions to regulate the boundaries of political groups

Authors: Delton, Petersen, Kane, Robertson & Cosmides

Abstract: Successful political collective action requires assembling and motivating a coalition. There are many ways this might be accomplished. Here, we test whether emotions play a role in these processes. Past work shows that partisans, compared to non-partisans, are more likely to use emotions—specifically, gratitude and anger—to motivate ingroup members to contribute to their political goals. Here, we extend this approach to see if these emotions are also used to regulate the boundaries of political groups. We use an observational approach (in a representative US sample) and an experimental approach (in a Danish sample). We show that partisans are more likely to use anger and gratitude to prevent a current ingroup member from leaving the group and are more likely to use gratitude to encourage a potential recruit to join the group. Emotions appear to be used to help retain and expand the ingroup.

Brief Overview:  We show that emotions are used to regulate the boundaries of political groups: Partisans, compared to non-partisans, use anger and gratitude to prevent an ingroup member from leaving and use gratitude to encourage a potential recruit to join.

Keywords: Emotions, Political Psychology, Groups, Partisanship, Anger, Gratitude    

Intense Anger and Low Trust as Sources of Far Right Vote in Europe

Authors: Cengiz Erisen (Yeditepe University) and Sofia Vasilopoulou (University of York)

Abstract: This paper argues that the far right vote in Europe should be understood as related to a combination of low trust and intense anger. When people express low levels of trust towards others and their political system, they tend to look out for alternative political options. Far right parties actively construct and consolidate this sentiment of distrust. Once distrust becomes embedded in the hearts and minds of individuals, they are, in turn, much more likely to respond to politicians’ emotive appeals about immigration, and specifically those that evoke anger. The effect of distrust on far right support is stronger among angry individuals. With the use of representative survey data in two countries (Germany and the Netherlands), we show that i) distrust in others and the democratic institutions increase the likelihood of the vote for the far right; ii) anger and fear promote distinct proclivities in vote choice; and iii) the effect of anger on far right party support is higher among those individuals that experience the lowest levels of social trust. Our findings shed light on the foundations of the far right vote in Europe.

Brief overview: Far-right parties construct sentiments of distrust. Once embedded in the minds of people, it  makes them more likely to respond to anger appeals about immigration. We demonstrate this using survey data from Germany and the Netherlands.

Risk or Retribution: How Citizens Respond to Terrorism

Author: Carly Wayne

Abstract: Despite the widespread assumption regarding terrorism’s “terrifying” effect, there has been little systematic testing of the factors that make terrorism so emotionally and politically powerful. This hinders our understanding of the strategic considerations undergirding militants’ use of this tactic and our ability to address public health in the wake of terrorist violence. In this paper, I employ three survey experiments to examine the psychological mechanisms motivating the public’s political responses to terrorism. I fi nd that the predominant emotional response to terrorism is anger rather than fear, and this drives support for retributive violence. Indeed, increased support for military retaliation in the wake of terror attacks is driven by those citizens who feel the least personally threatened by terrorist violence but the most morally outraged. These results belie the predominant narrative of the public’s terror and overestimation of personal risk in the wake of terrorist violence and suggest that vengeance may be a more powerful driver of citizens’ responses to this type of militant violence. This work thus provides insight into a major puzzle in the terrorism literature – why terrorists rarely receive concessions from states, but often provoke strong military responses | and has important implications for undermining the efficacy of terrorism as a tool of political violence.

Brief overview: Terrorism is often deemed “terrifying”. In this study, I investigate the factors that make it so emotionally powerful showing that the predominant response to terrorism is anger, not fear, and that support for retaliation is driven by moral outrage.