Political Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 521–543 | Cite as

The Gag Reflex: Disgust Rhetoric and Gay Rights in American Politics

  • Shana Kushner Gadarian
  • Eric van der VortEmail author
Original Paper


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.


Disgust 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.

Supplementary material

11109_2017_9412_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, Maxwell SchoolSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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