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Anxiety, Enthusiasm, and the Vote: The Emotional Underpinnings of Learning and Involvement During Presidential Campaigns

  • George E. Marcus (a1) and Michael B. MacKuen (a2)


By incorporating emotionality, we propose to enrich information-processing models of citizens' behavior during election campaigns. We demonstrate that two distinct dynamic emotional responses play influential roles during election campaigns: anxiety and enthusiasm. Anxiety, responding to threat and novelty, stimulates attention toward the campaign and political learning and discourages reliance on habitual cues for voting. Enthusiasm powerfully influences candidate preferences and stimulates interest and involvement in the campaign. The findings support a theoretical perspective that regards cognitive and emotional processes as mutually engaged and mutually supportive rather than as antagonistic. We suggest that the democratic process may not be undermined by emotionality as is generally presupposed. Instead, we believe that people use emotions as tools for efficient information processing and thus enhance their abilities to engage in meaningful political deliberation.



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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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