According to experts, anger is an emotion that can be turned into a positive if it motivates us to do something we normally would not do. New research supports this theory as researchers have found that anger can drive us to participate more in civic duties.
“Anger in politics can play a particularly vital role, motivating some people to participate in ways they might ordinarily not,” said politicial scientist Dr. Nicholas Valentino, the study’s lead author.
“We normally think people with a lot of resources and political skills are the ones who participate, but many citizens in this category regularly abstain from politics. Furthermore, many citizens with few resources can be mobilized if they experience strong anger.
“Anger leads citizens to harness existing skills and resources in a given election. Therefore, the process by which emotions are produced in each campaign can powerfully alter electoral outcomes.”
Researchers used a study methodology called “emotion-induction task” to elevate specific emotional states in a group of participants.
Emotional conditions of anger, anxiety and enthusiasm were studied by asking participants 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.
In another analysis, the researchers looked at emotions and nonvoting participation in elections from 1980 to 2004.
Cost- or energy-effective strategies to improve participation in the political process included talking to others about voting and wearing a button. Activities that involved more work to improve participation included attending a political rally, working for a campaign and donating money.
In both cases, anger boosted political participation, especially when skills and resources are factored into the equation.
Source: University of Michigan