Emotional Affect and Partisan Polarization in Presidential Elections 1980-2016: An Ever-Twisting Spiral, w/ Will Jorgeson and Jan E. Leighley

Abstract

While numerous studies have examined how emotions mediate different aspects of citizens’ political attitudes, information-seeking and knowledge, few have focused on how campaigns might motivate or depress political behavior such as voter turnout. We use measures of positive and negative emotions from the American National Election Studies (ANES) for presidential elections between 1980 and 2016 to examine whether emotional affect toward presidential candidates increases over time, whether Republican identifiers report stronger emotional affect than Democratic identifiers, and whether emotional affect is associated with self-reported voter turnout. Our evidence indicates that emotional affect is associated with higher turnout but fails to support our expectations regarding changes over time in affective reactions to candidates and partisan differences in affective reactions.

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