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Political Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 933–964 | Cite as

Anger and Declining Trust in Government in the American Electorate

  • Steven W. WebsterEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Partisanship in the United States in the contemporary era is largely characterized by feelings of anger and negativity. While the behavioral consequences of this new style of partisanship have been explored at some length, less is known about how the anger that is at the root of this growing partisan antipathy affects Americans’ views of the national government. In this paper, I utilize data from the 2012 American National Election Studies to show that higher levels of anger are associated with a greater level of distrust in government across a variety of metrics. I then present evidence from a survey experiment on a national sample of registered voters to show that anger has a causal effect in reducing citizens’ trust in government. Importantly, I find that anger is able to affect an individual’s views of the national government even when it is aroused through apolitical means. I also find that merely prompting individuals to think about politics is sufficient to arouse angry emotions. In total, the results suggest that anger and politics are closely intertwined, and that anger plays a broad and powerful role in shaping how Americans view their governing institutions.

Keywords

Anger Trust in government Partisanship 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I thank Adam Glynn, Alan Abramowitz, Gregory Martin, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Any errors are my own. Replication materials are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/3DPSFR.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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