Anger motivates people to vote, study shows

June 8, 2011

Though pundits and candidates suggest there is too much anger in politics, the emotion does have a potential benefit—it significantly motivates citizens to vote, according to a University of Michigan study.

"Anger in politics can play a particularly vital role, motivating some people to participate in ways they might ordinarily not," said Nicholas Valentino, the study's lead author and a professor of communication studies and political science. "We normally think people with a lot of resources and political skills are the ones who participate, but many citizens in this category regularly abstain from politics. Furthermore, many citizens with few resources can be mobilized if they experience strong anger.

"Anger leads citizens to harness existing skills and resources in a given election. Therefore, the process by which emotions are produced in each campaign can powerfully alter electoral outcomes."

Valentino and colleagues used an "emotion-induction task" to heighten specific states in a group of participants who were assigned three conditions: anger, anxiety and enthusiasm. They were asked to recall and write about something that caused them to experience a specific emotion during the last presidential campaign. They were also asked about their political participation based on five actions: wearing a campaign button, volunteering for a campaign, attending a rally, talking to others or donating money.

Anger boosted participation by nearly one third for each of these five behaviors, while anxiety and enthusiasm did not, the study found.

The researchers also looked at respondents' emotions in a national survey conducted during the 2008 presidential campaign. The pre-election study measured 12 emotions, including anger, fear, hope, alarm, sadness, disgust and happiness. Respondents were asked how they felt about the way things were going in the country, rating each emotion. Again, anger was strongly related to participation in the 2008 election.

In another analysis, the researchers looked at emotions and nonvoting participation from elections from 1980 to 2004. Talking to others about voting and wearing a button represented "cheap" forms of participation that require little effort or resources, while "costly" ways of participating involved attending a rally, working for a and donating money. In both cases, boosted political participation, especially when skills and resources are factored into the equation.

Explore further: Study shows the upside of anger

Related Stories

Study shows the upside of anger

March 26, 2008

Here’s a maxim from the “duh” department: People typically prefer to feel emotions that are pleasant, like excitement, and avoid those that are unpleasant, like anger.

'Angry' extroverts should do best in the ring

December 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Boxers are renowned for upping the ante by trading slurs and insults at pre-fight weigh-ins or press conferences - but research by sports psychologists suggests that the role goes beyond showmanship. If effectively ...

Anger makes people want things more

November 1, 2010

Anger is an interesting emotion for psychologists. On the one hand, it's negative, but then it also has some of the features of positive emotions. For a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association ...

Recommended for you

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hush1
not rated yet Jun 11, 2011
More provocation? "Cheap" article? "Cheap" authors? "Cheap" attention? "Cheap" participation? "Costly" participation?

Cheap words for a cheap readership? Cheap manipulation? Cheap exploitation?

Back to square one?
Motivation inspires?
Anger is cheap?
Feel cheated here? Feel the motivation?
The dishonesty.
"emotion-induction tasks"
Indispensable for Nation building or demolition.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.