Department of Political Science

Partisans use emotions as social pressure: Feeling anger and gratitude at exiters and recruits in political groups

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Andrew W. Delton, Stony Brook University
  • ,
  • John V. Kane, New York University
  • ,
  • Michael Bang Petersen
  • Theresa E. Robertson, Stony Brook University
  • ,
  • Leda Cosmides, University of California at Santa Barbara

Political collective action requires assembling and motivating supporters. Many theories view emotions as functional tools for managing relationships, including within groups. We study what leads citizens to use the emotions anger and gratitude as social pressure. Specifically, we test what determines the use of these emotions to prevent potential exiters from leaving a political group and to encourage potential recruits to join. Because parties are enduring social affiliations (compared to transient or issue-focused groups), we predicted that partisans would express stronger emotions. We tested this proposition in two separate studies—one an observational study featuring a representative sample of US adults and one an experimental study conducted in Denmark. As predicted, people with a partisan mindset, whether naturally occurring or experimentally manipulated, felt more anger and gratitude at potential exiters and recruits. Citizens strive to fortify and expand their ingroups and sometimes use emotions as social pressure to do so.

Original languageEnglish
JournalParty Politics
Pages (from-to)845-853
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

    Research areas

  • emotions, partisanship, political psychology

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