Thursday, April 21, 2011

Emotion and Political Behavior

Sit down, budding mass comm scholars, and let me describe for you how to craft the perfect title for that academic journal article.
  1. It must have a colon.  There's even a name for this -- titular colonicity.
  2. But a colon alone does not an article title make.  You must, before the colon, come up with some clever or sexy name.  Playing off famous song titles is good.  Or puns.
  3. And after the colon comes the boring stuff, the part that says you really are a serious academic.  Really.  You have a PhD and everything.
  4. Put it all together and it all works so very well.
Which brings us to a recent Journal of Politics article that follows oh so well my careful algebraic formula above for writing the perfect title.

Before the colon: Election Night’s Alright for Fighting

You gotta give extra points for giving a political participation study a play off a great old Elton John song.  Terrific.

And then comes the colon.

And then comes the boring but important stuff: The Role of Emotions in Political Participation

I suppose I should discuss the study itself, at least briefly.  It looks at the role, obviously, that emotions play in participation, and specifically they find that anger matters more than enthusiasm or anxiety.  Their Table 2, for example, demonstrates anger as a predictor of participation.  Interestingly, political knowledge fails to be a factor.  No media variables are included in the analysis, which is too bad, but I suspect all the variance would have been sucked up by other factors used in the model.

For those who cannot access the study:

In contrast with previous literature, however, we also find important distinctions between the effects of anger and other emotions. In an experiment where emotions were induced independently, we find anger, but not anxiety or enthusiasm, significantly boosts participation. In our 2008 survey, we find anger to be positively linked to participation, while anxiety actually decreases participation and enthusiasm has little effect. Finally, in the ANES pooled data, anger, enthusiasm, and anxiety are positively associated with
participation. However, the effect of anxiety is confined to less costly participatory actions. On the other hand, anger and enthusiasm motivate costly forms of participation as well. Skills and resources are important, but the motivating power of anger and to a lesser extent enthusiasm, in combination with such factors, dramatically boosts participation.

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