The Social Psychology of Politics

Part of the series Social Psychological Applications to Social Issues pp 55-74

The Emotional Voter

Effects of Episodic Affective Reactions on Candidate Evaluation
  • Linda M. IsbellAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • , Victor C. OttatiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Loyala University of Chicago

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It seems self-evident that political figures arouse passion and emotion in the electorate. Vivid examples can be found throughout all of political history. In 1864, Harper’s Weekly described Abraham Lincoln as a “monster”, a characterization that is clearly emotionally evocative (Jamieson, 1992). John F. Kennedy, the “Camelot” president, evoked feelings of tremendous pride and patriotism in his eloquent speeches (e.g., “Ask not what your country can do for you…”). Bill Clinton’s recent sexual escapades elicited disgust among many citizens, and his subsequent lies about the affair aroused considerable anger. Moreover, political candidates notoriously surround themselves with contextual stimuli (e.g., the American flag, balloons, music) that are designed to elicit positive emotional reactions in the electorate ([Jamieson, 1992]).