The Gag Reflex: Disgust Rhetoric and Gay Rights in American Politics
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Political scientists have increasingly looked to the role that disgust plays in shaping public opinion and attitudes. This emotion plays an important role in building and reinforcing boundaries in the polity. It is particularly important in shaping attitudes toward gay rights. We analyze data from the 1993 American National Election Studies (ANES) data and two original studies. We find that disgust is a powerful but contingent rhetorical tool. It can powerfully shape public attitudes, especially on issues of sexual purity, but that efficacy must come with a strong caveat: our findings show that some members of the public will reject disgust rhetoric as an indignant reaction against the speaker.
KeywordsDisgust Emotion Gay rights Rhetoric
The authors are listed in alphabetical order. We would like to thank Aaron Hoffman, Seth Jolly, Dan McDowell, Spencer Piston, Josh Thompson, participants at Purdue University, the Moynihan Research Workshop, and the Midwest Political Science Association 2014 annual meeting for feedback on earlier versions of this paper. We also owe thanks to the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their feedback and subsequent improvements to the paper. Finally, we thank the Department of Political Science and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University for their support of this project.
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