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Expressive Partisanship: Campaign Involvement, Political Emotion, and Partisan Identity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2015

Stony Brook University
Rutgers University
Aarhus University
Leonie Huddy, Professor, Department of Political Science, SUNY at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794–4392 (
Lilliana Mason, Lecturer, Hickman Hall, 89 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 (
Lene Aarøe, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Government, Bartholins Allé 7, Building 1340, Room 233, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (


Party identification is central to the study of American political behavior, yet there remains disagreement over whether it is largely instrumental or expressive in nature. We draw on social identity theory to develop the expressive model and conduct four studies to compare it to an instrumental explanation of campaign involvement. We find strong support for the expressive model: a multi-item partisan identity scale better accounts for campaign activity than a strong stance on subjectively important policy issues, the strength of ideological self-placement, or a measure of ideological identity. A series of experiments underscore the power of partisan identity to generate action-oriented emotions that drive campaign activity. Strongly identified partisans feel angrier than weaker partisans when threatened with electoral loss and more positive when reassured of victory. In contrast, those who hold a strong and ideologically consistent position on issues are no more aroused emotionally than others by party threats or reassurances. In addition, threat and reassurance to the party's status arouse greater anger and enthusiasm among partisans than does a threatened loss or victory on central policy issues. Our findings underscore the power of an expressive partisan identity to drive campaign involvement and generate strong emotional reactions to ongoing campaign events.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2015 

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