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 THIRTEEN
Testing Some Implications of Affective
Intelligence Theory at the Aggregate Level

PETER F. NARDULLI AND JAMES H. KUKLINSKI

Psychologists study emotions for their own sake. Political scientists care about emotions only if they further understanding of politics. Accordingly, this chapter begins with a conception of democratic governance and only then asks how incorporating emotions might enhance it. Three core desires—the desires for economic prosperity, individual physical safety, and collective physical security—serve as the conception's foundation. The conception predicts that when threats to these core desires arise and politicians fail to address them, an electorate that normally might not be watching voices its discontent at the ballot box.

Initially, we borrow from affective intelligence theory devised by Marcus and colleagues (Marcus, Neuman, and MacKuen 2000; MacKuen, Marcus, Neuman, and Keele, chapter 6 in this volume) and assume anxiety to be the triggering mechanism: threats to core desires increase anxiety, in turn evoking intense surveillance and departures from routine voting behavior.1 We derive aggregate-level implications from this assumption and find some empirical support for them. When deriving the implications, however, we find affective intelligence theory to be lacking. It is silent as to the long-term dynamics between threats and anxiety or between

1. We skirt one key matter in this chapter: determining when an increasingly bad con-
dition becomes a threat. Different people will see the same condition differently; some will
interpret it as a threat, others will not. In fact, the complexity is greater than this. People
might not see a bad condition as a threat until they feel anxiety. We adopt a frankly loose
posture in this chapter and assume that a condition or a change in condition objectively be-
comes a threat once it reaches a certain threshold, which we do not specify. At that point,
some people feel threatened, others do not. As the condition worsens further, additional
people feel threatened.

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