Political Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 423-442

First online:

The cognitive and affective components of political attitudes: Measuring the determinants of candidate evaluations

  • Victor C. OttatiAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, State University of New York
  • , Marco R. SteenbergenAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, State University of New York
  • , Ellen RiggleAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Kentucky

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Past research suggests that beliefs and emotions operate as partially distinct determinants of political attitudes. In addition, while positive and negative beliefs about a political object are bipolar in structure, positive and negative emotions have been demonstrated to be relatively independent. In this past research, beliefs and emotions have been assessed with different measures. Yet current models of survey responding suggest that responses to survey items are often influenced by the manner in which the researcher poses the questions. As such, it is not clear whether the uniqueness of these belief and emotion measures reflects a bona fide difference between two underlying constructs, or merely an artifactual difference induced by differing methods of measurement. In this study, beliefs and emotions are shown to operate as partially unique predictors of candidate evaluation even when employing corresponding methods of measurement. The independence of positive and negative emotion, however, only arises when employing a dichotomous measure. When employing ordinal measures, positive and negative emotions contain a substantial component of bipolarity. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.