Seeing Red: Anger Increases How Much Republican Identification Predicts Partisan Attitudes and Perceived Polarization
PLOS (Public Library of Science) ONE
Michaela Huber, Leaf Van Boven, Bernadette Park & William Pizzi, Seeing Red: Anger Increases How Much Republican Identification Predicts Partisan Attitudes and Perceived Polarization, PLOS ONE, Sept. 25, 2015, at 1, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0139193.
We examined the effects of incidental anger on perceived and actual polarization between Democrats and Republicans in the context of two national tragedies, Hurricane Katrina (Study 1) and the mass shooting that targeted Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona (Study 2). We hypothesized that because of its relevance to intergroup conflict, incidental anger exacerbates the political polarization effects of issue partisanship (the correlation between partisan identification and partisan attitudes), and, separately, the correlation between conservative partisan identification and perceived polarization between Democrats and Republicans. We further hypothesized that these effects would be strongest for Republican identification because Republican leaders were targets of public criticism in both tragedies and because conservative (Republican) ideology tends to be more sensitive to threat. In the studies, participants first completed an emotion induction procedure by recalling autobiographical events that made them angry (Studies 1 & 2), sad (Studies 1 & 2), or that involved recalling emotionally neutral events (Study 2). Participants later reported their attitudes regarding the two tragedies, their perceptions of the typical Democrat’s and Republican’s attitudes on those issues, and their identification with the Democratic and Republican parties. Compared with incidental sadness (Studies 1 and 2) and a neutral condition (Study 2), incidental anger exacerbated the associations between Republican identification and partisan attitudes, and, separately between Republican identification and perceived polarization between the attitudes of Democrats and Republicans. We discuss implications for anger’s influence on political attitude formation and perceptions of group differences in political attitudes.
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