Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 135-152

First online:

The Physiology of Political Participation

  • Michael W. GruszczynskiAffiliated withUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • , Amanda BalzerAffiliated withUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • , Carly M. JacobsAffiliated withUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • , Kevin B. SmithAffiliated withUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • , John R. HibbingAffiliated withUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln Email author 

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Political involvement varies markedly across people. Traditional explanations for this variation tend to rely on demographic variables and self-reported, overtly political concepts. In this article, we expand the range of possible explanatory variables by hypothesizing that a correlation exists between political involvement and physiological predispositions. We measure physiology by computing the degree to which electrodermal activity changes on average when a participant sequentially views a full range of differentially valenced stimuli. Our findings indicate that individuals with higher electrodermal responsiveness are also more likely to participate actively in politics. This relationship holds even after the effects of traditional demographic variables are taken into account, suggesting that physiological responsiveness independently contributes to a fuller understanding of the underlying sources of variation in political involvement.


Political participation Physiology Electrodermal activity Emotion