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Though pundits and candidates suggest there is too much anger in politics, the emotion does have a potential benefit—it significantly motivates citizens to vote, according to a University of Michigan study.
Valentino and colleagues used an "emotion-induction task" to heighten specific emotional states in a group of participants who were assigned three conditions: anger, anxiety and enthusiasm. They were asked to recall and write about something that caused them to experience a specific emotion during the last presidential campaign. They were also asked about their political participation based on five actions: wearing a campaign button, volunteering for a campaign, attending a rally, talking to others or donating money.
Anger boosted participation by nearly one third for each of these five behaviors, while anxiety and enthusiasm did not, the study found.
The researchers also looked at respondents' emotions in a national survey conducted during the 2008 presidential campaign. The pre-election study measured 12 emotions, including anger, fear, hope, alarm, sadness, disgust and happiness. Respondents were asked how they felt about the way things were going in the country, rating each emotion. Again, anger was strongly related to participation in the 2008 election.