Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

The Anxious Partisan: A Test of Affective Intelligence Theory in Romania

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

The Anxious Partisan: A Test of Affective Intelligence Theory in Romania

Article excerpt


One aspect of voting behaviour that has been, until recently, neglected in the literature is the impact of emotions. Research in neuroscience, political psychology and cognitive science suggests that emotions influence a wide range of political and customary activities (1). In political behaviour, Affective Intelligence Theory (AI) posits that individuals who are made anxious tend to seek out more information and will stop relying on habits when taking a decision (2). When it comes time to vote, partisans anxious about their party's candidate may vote for a different candidate.

No endeavour has yet been made to try and better understand the workings of party identification in post-communist countries through emotions. This study strives to improve the understanding of party identification in young democracies. In order to do so, the case of the 2009 presidential elections in Romania was chosen. These elections present an excellent opportunity to study party identification. As presidential elections occur in two rounds, with the two leading candidates competing in a vote-off, some voters will inevitably have to vote for a second preference if they are to vote at all. Using panel data, I investigate which types of voters maintain identification with their stated party and which changes their identification along with their vote.

My results confirm expectations drawn from previous studies. About 60% of Romanians declare themselves close to a party at one point or another. Of these, almost half can be considered consistent partisans, following their declaring themselves close to the same party over a period of one month, before and after the elections. The rest are individuals that consistently declare themselves independent from any political party. A comparison between these groups suggests that consistent partisans behave similarly to their European and American counterparts: they are more likely to vote consistently with the same party, be interested in politics, and trust political parties than non-partisans. I also look at campaign dynamics and find that voters whose preferred candidate did not make it into the second round are quite keen on following their candidate's advice on who they should vote for in the second round. The effect is even stronger for partisans of the losing candidate's party.

I also find some weak but consistent support in favour of AI, but only when the model is applied to voting for the challenging candidate. Supporters of the challenger are more likely to vote for another candidate when experiencing anxiety. Anxiety about one's own candidate and about the whole range of candidates is also linked to increased levels of attention to the campaign and more discussion about the elections. I also analyze the direct relationship between voting behaviour and emotions. My results indicate that emotions do have a direct effect on candidate evaluations, but anxiety only influences assessments of the incumbent, not the challenger. Moreover, emotions have no direct effect on voting behaviour.

Literature review

The traditional understanding of emotions is that they are to be separated from rationality. Emotions stand in the way of calm examination of a given situation, triggering irrational behaviours (3). Yet developments in neuroscience and psychology suggest that emotions play an irreplaceable role in managing everyday experiences (4). Emotions have also been shown to have an active role in information seeking behaviours (5), in predictions (6), voting (7), risk assessment (8) and partisanship (9). Instead of a think-first-and-feel-second order of managing information, recent research suggests that emotions may be antecedent to actual processing of information by the brain. Evidence that the cognitive and affective components interact is growing: an array of works by Isen and co-authors report a positive relationship between positive affect and problem-solving abilities (10), while Miller (11) discusses the enhancive effect political sophistication has on experiencing emotions. …

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