The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior

By W. Russell Neuman; George E. Marcus et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
Don't Give Up Hope: Emotions, Candidate
Appraisals, and Votes

MARION R. JUST, ANN N. CRIGLER, AND TODD L. BELT

We know that this election presents America with a real stark choice: A choice
between hope and fear; between unity and division
.

BILL CLINTON, A Man from Hope

Campaigns are built on emotions. These emotions range from the raw passions of a cheering crowd to individual feelings about candidates, parties, issues, and elections. The purpose of this chapter is to examine how citizens' emotions about candidates influence two aspects of the campaign: vote choices and expectations about the results. Whereas the literature about emotions in campaigns emphasizes the critical role of fear, our study addresses the importance of hope in connecting individuals to political objects. As the campaign unfolds, citizens experience the emotion of hope for their preferred candidates with the expectation that these candidates will bring favorable political leadership or enact favorable policies. Because hope is oriented to an unknowable future, it is often accompanied by fear of a different outcome. During an election campaign a compensatory relation develops between hope and fear about opposing candidates. We rely on appraisal theory to explain how emotions are related to assessment of candidate traits or issue positions. Our data suggest that hope is a powerful coping mechanism that can mold perceptions about candidates and bias information search. By the end of the campaign, supporters attach hope to the preferred candidate's chances of winning the election. The result may be false hope for a favored outcome even when there is ample evidence that a preferred candidate is going down to defeat. Whether hope is true or false, we show that hope is the key emotion in voting decisions and is essential for the democratic process.

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