Skip to main content Accessibility help

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



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.


Corresponding author

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 (


Hide All
Abramowitz, Alan I. 2010. The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization and American Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Abramowitz, Alan I., and Saunders, Kyle L.. 2006. “Exploring the Bases of Partisanship in the American Electorate: Social Identity vs. Ideology.” Political Research Quarterly 59: 175–87.
Abramson, Paul R., and Aldrich, John H.. 1982. “The Decline of Electoral Participation in America.” American Political Science Review 76 (3): 502.
Andreychick, Michael R., & Gill, Michael J.. 2009. “Ingroup identity Moderates the Impact of Social Explanations on Intergroup Attitudes: External Explanations Are Not Inherently Prosocial.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35 (12): 1632–45.
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Rodden, Jonathan, and Snyder, James M. Jr. 2008. “The Strength of Issues: Using Multiple Measures to Gauge Preference Stability, Ideological Constraint, and Issue Voting.” American Political Science Review 102 (2): 215–32.
Arceneaux, Kevin, and Vander Wielen, Ryan J.. 2013. “The Effects of Need for Cognition and Need for Affect on Partisan Evaluations.” Political Psychology 34 (1): 2342.
Bafumi, Joseph, and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 2009. “A New Partisan Voter.” Journal of Politics 71 (1): 124.
Bartels, Larry M. 2002. “Beyond the Running Tally: Partisan Bias in Political Perceptions.” Political Behavior 24 (2): 117–50.
Brady, Henry E., Verba, Sidney, and Schlozman, Kay Lehman. 1995. “Beyond SES: A Resource Model of Political Participation.” American Political Science Review, 89 (2): 271–94.
Bullock, John G. 2011. “Elite Influence on Public Opinion in an Informed Electorate.” American Political Science Review 105 (3): 496515.
Campbell, Angus, Converse, Philip E., Miller, Warren E., and Stokes, Donald E.. 1960. The American Voter. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Cassese, Erin, Huddy, Leonie, Hartman, Todd, Mason, Lily, and Weber, Christ. 2013. “Socially-Mediated Internet Surveys (SMIS): Recruiting Participants for Online Experiments.” PS: Political Science & Politics 46 (4): 775–84.
Cohen, Geoffrey. 2003. “Party over Policy: The Dominating Impact of Group Influence on Political Beliefs.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85: 808–22.
Combs, David J., Powell, Caitlin A. J., Schurtz, David Ryan, and Smith, Richard H.. 2009. “Politics, Schadenfreude, and Ingroup Identification: The Sometimes Happy Thing about a Poor Economy and Death.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45: 635–46.
Dancey, Logan, and Goren, Paul. 2010. “Party Identification, Issue Attitudes, and the Dynamics of Political Debate.” American Journal of Political Science 54: 686–99.
Damasio, Antonio R. 1994. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam.
Ellis, Christopher, and Stimson, James. 2012. Ideology in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Erikson, Robert, and Tedin, Kent. 2010. American Public Opinion. New York: Pearson/Longman.
Ethier, Kathleen A., and Deaux, Kay. 1994. “Negotiating Social Identity When Contexts Change: Maintaining Identification and Responding to Threat.” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 67: 243–51.
Fiorina, Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Fiorina, Morris P., Abrams, Samuel J., and Pope, Jeremy. 2011. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America. New York: Longman.
Fiorina, Morris P., and Levendusky, Matthew S.. 2006. “Disconnected: The Political Class versus the People.” In Red and Blue Nation? Characteristics and Causes of America's Polarized Politics, eds. Nivola, Pietro S. and Brady, David W.. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 4971.
Fowler, James H., and Kam, Cindy. 2007. “Beyond the Self: Social Identity, Altruism and Political Participation.” Journal of Politics 69 (3): 813–27.
Franklin, Charles H., and Jackson, John E.. 1983. “The Dynamics of Party Identification.” American Political Science Review 77 (4): 957–73.
Frijda, Nico H. 1986. The Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., and Washington, Ebonya. 2010. “Party Affiliation, Partisanship, and Political Beliefs: A Field Experiment.” American Political Science Review 104 (4): 720–44.
Green, Donald, Palmquist, Bradley, and Schickler, Eric. 2002. Partisan Hearts and Minds: Political Parties and the Social Identity of Voters. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Greene, Steven. 2002. “The Social-Psychological Measurement of Partisanship.” Political Behavior 24 (3):171–97.
Greene, Steven. 2004. “Social Identity Theory and Political Identification.” Social Science Quarterly 85 (1): 138–53.
Groenendyk, Eric W., and Banks, Antoine J.. 2013. “Emotional Rescue: How Affect Helps Partisans Overcome Collective Action Problems.” Political Psychology 35 (3): 359–78.
Harbridge, Laurel, and Malhotra, Neil. 2011. “Electoral Incentives and Partisan Conflict in Congress: Evidence from Survey Experiments.” American Journal of Political Science 55 (3): 494510.
Huddy, Leonie. 2001. “From Social to Political Identity: A Critical Examination of Social Identity Theory.” Political Psychology 22: 127–56.
Huddy, Leonie. 2013. “From Group Identity to Political Commitment and Cohesion.” In Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, eds. Huddy, Leonie, Sears, David O., and Jervis, Robert. New York: Oxford University Press, 737–73.
Huddy, Leonie, Feldman, Stanley, and Cassese, Erin. 2007. “On the Distinct Political Effects of Anxiety and Anger.” In The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior, eds. Neuman, W. Russell, Marcus, George E., MacKuen, Michael, and Crigler, Ann. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 202–30.
Huddy, Leonie, and Khatib, Nadia. 2007. “American Patriotism, National Identity, and Political Involvement.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (1): 6377.
Iyengar, Shanto, Sood, Gaurav, and Lelkes, Yphtach. 2012. “Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization.” Public Opinion Quarterly (September 17).
Izard, Carroll E. 1993. “Four Systems for Emotion Activation: Cognitive and Noncognitive Processes.” Psychological Review 100 (1): 6890.
Lavine, Howard, Johnston, Christopher, and Steenbergen, Marco. 2012. The Ambivalent Partisan: How Critical Loyalty Promotes Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lawrence, Eric, Sides, John, and Farrell, Henry. 2010. “Self-Segregation or Deliberation? Blog Readership, Participation, and Polarization in American Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 8 (1): 141–57.
Lerner, Jennifer S., and Tiedens, Larissa Z.. 2006. “Portrait of the Angry Decision Maker: How Appraisal Tendencies Shape Anger's Influence on Cognition.” Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 19: 115–37.
Levendusky, Matthew. 2009. The Partisan Sort: How Liberals Became Democrats and Conservatives Became Republicans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S., Jacoby, William G., Norpoth, Helmut, and Weisberg, Herbert F.. 2009. The American Voter Revisited. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Lupu, Noam. 2013. “Party Brands and Partisanship: Theory with Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Argentina.” American Journal of Political Science 57 (1): 4964.
Mackie, Diane M., Devos, Thierry, and Smith, Eliot R.. 2000. “Intergroup Emotions: Explaining Offensive Action Tendencies in an Intergroup Context.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79 (4): 602–16.
Mael, Fred A., and Tetrick, Lois E.. 1992. “Identifying Organizational Identification.” Educational and Psychological Measurement 52 (4): 813–24.
Marcus, George E., Neuman, W. Russell, and MacKuen, Michael. 2000. Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mason, Lilliana. 2014. “I Disrespectfully Agree: The Differential Effects of Partisan Sorting on Behavioral and Issue Polarization.” American Journal of Political Science. doi: 10.1111/ajps.12089.
Miller, Patrick R. 2011. “The Emotional Citizen: Emotion as a Function of Political Sophistication.” Political Psychology 32 (4): 575600.
Nicholson, Stephen P. 2012. “Polarizing Cues.” American Journal of Political Science 56 (1): 5266.
Rosenstone, Steven, and Hansen, John. 1993. Mobilization, Participation and Democracy in America. New York: MacMillan.
Rydell, Robert J., Mackie, Diane M., Maitner, Angela T., Claypool, Heather M., Ryan, Melissa J., and Smith, Eliot R.. 2008. “Arousal, Processing, and Risk Taking: Consequences of Intergroup Anger.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34 (8): 1141–52.
Simon, Bernd, and Klandermans, Bert. 2001. “Politicized Collective Identity: A Social Psychological Analysis.” American Psychologist 56: 319–31.
Simon, Bernd, Loewy, Michael, Stürmer, Stefan, Weber, Ulrike, Freytag, Peter, Habig, Corinna, Kampmeier, Claudia, and Spahlinger, Peter. 1998. “Collective Identification and Social Movement Participation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74: 646–58.
Smith, Heather J., Cronin, Tracey, and Kessler, Thomas. 2008. “Anger, Fear, or Sadness: Faculty Members’ Emotional Reactions to Collective Pay Disadvantage.” Political Psychology 29 (2): 221–46.
Sniderman, Paul M., and Stiglitz, Edward H.. 2012. The Reputational Premium. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Tajfel, Henri. (1981). Human Groups and Social Categories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tajfel, Henri, and Turner, John. 1979. “An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Conflict.” In The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, eds. Austin, W. G. and Worchel, S.. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole, 3347.
Theiss-Morse, Elizabeth. 2009. Who Counts as an American? New York: Cambridge University Press.
Turner, John C., Hogg, Michael A., Oakes, Penelope J., Stephen D. Reicher, and Wetherell, Margaret S.. (1987). Rediscovering the Social Group: A Self-Categorization Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.
Valentino, Nicholas A., Brader, Ted, Groenendyk, Eric W., Gregorowicz, Krysha, and Hutchings, Vincent L.. 2011. “Election Night's Alright for Fighting: The Role of Emotions in Political Participation.” Journal of Politics 73 (1): 156–70.
van Zomeren, Martijn, Postmes, Tom, and Spears, Russell. 2008. “Toward an Integrative Social Identity Model of Collective Action: A Quantitative Research Synthesis of Three Socio-Psychological Perspectives.” Psychological Bulletin 134 (4): 504–35.
van Zomeren, Martijn, Spears, Russell, and Leach, Colin Wayne. 2008. “Exploring Psychological Mechanisms of Collective Action: Does Relevance of Group Identity Influence How People Cope with Collective Disadvantage?British Journal of Social Psychology 47 (2): 353–72.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

HUDDY et al. supplementary material
Supplementary Appendix

 Word (339 KB)
339 KB

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



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.