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Losing Hurts: The Happiness Impact of Partisan Electoral Loss

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2015

Lamar Pierce
Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis, One Brookings Drive Box 1133, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA, e-mail:
Todd Rogers
Harvard Kennedy School, Mailbox 124, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Jason A. Snyder
Anderson School of Management, UCLA, 110 Westwood Plaza, Cornell Hall, Suite D506, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA


Partisan identity shapes social, mental, economic, and physical life. Using a novel dataset, we study the consequences of partisan identity by examining the immediate impact of electoral loss and victory on happiness and sadness. Employing a quasi-experimental regression discontinuity model we present two primary findings. First, elections strongly affect the immediate happiness/sadness of partisan losers, but minimally impact partisan winners. This effect is consistent with psychological research on the good-bad hedonic asymmetry, but appears to dissipate within a week after the election. Second, the immediate happiness consequences to partisan losers are relatively strong. To illustrate, we show that partisans are affected two times more by their party losing the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election than both respondents with children were to the Newtown shootings and respondents living in Boston were to the Boston Marathon bombings. We discuss implications regarding the centrality of partisan identity to the self and its well-being.

Research Article
Copyright © The Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2015 

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