Emotion & Gender

Big Boys Don’t Cry: Evaluations of Politicians Across Issue, Gender, and Emotion

Emotional appeals are powerful motivators of political action. Yet the gender of a politician and the existing stereotypes held by audiences complicate the determination of which type of emotional appeal is best suited for different issue areas. In what ways do politicians’ emotional appeals serve to mitigate or exacerbate the impact of gender stereotypes across different policy domains? This research examines when politicians pay penalties or gain rewards for their emotional expressions using a survey experiment on a diverse national sample. We find evidence that women politicians are on equal footing or stand to benefit when expressing masculine emotions while also having greater emotional freedom across policy domains. Men politicians, on the other hand, are significantly punished for not acting “manly” enough in masculine policy domains. Nonetheless, these patterns become complicated by both situational context and partisan expectations. The results provide promise for the future prospects of women politicians while pointing to the continued relevance of gendered stereotypes about emotionality in today’s political world.

Why Women Earn High Marks: Examining the Role of Partisanship and Gender in Political Evaluations

We present the results of a randomized survey experiment demonstrating that the public evaluates women politicians more highly than men across multiple characteristic assessments. This finding is consistent with a recent wave of research indicating greater preferences for women politicians. Which respondents rate women politicians more highly, and why? We find that women and younger voters do not account for the greater marks given to women politicians. Instead, respondent partisanship and the presumed partisanship of the politician account for a great deal of our findings, with gender playing a complicating role. Democratic and Republican respondents are apt to project their own partisanship onto politicians, and across both parties, we find higher assessments for co-partisan politicians and for women politicians. On the whole, women politicians are evaluated on par with or significantly higher than men politicians across six characteristics, scoring especially well relative to men when politicians are presumed to be members of the opposing party and when traditionally feminine characteristics are assessed.

Gendered Emotions and Covid Risk: Assessing Variation in Emotional Induction Responses

Emotions are a key element of risk perceptions. To what extent are emotional inductions that are integral (directly relevant) to the risk at hand successful? Using two U.S. survey experiments (in May 2020 and March 2022), I assess the impact of gender and partisanship on an emotional induction task that seeks to manipulate the experience of fear, anger, and pride in relation to the Covid pandemic. I find evidence that partisanship, more so than gender, impacts the effectiveness of the emotional induction task because the task is narrowly targeted to the politicized coronavirus pandemic. Then, I use text analysis to examine gendered language and emotional expression, seeking to understand the degree to which each is associated with taking protective health behaviors. Together, the results highlight the depth of the politicization of the pandemic – while drawing attention to gendered differences in emotional expression and risk perception regarding Covid.

Motivating Participation Through Political Ads: Comparing the Effects of Physiology and Self-reported Emotion

With numerous scholars expressing interest, and in some cases concern, over the impact of televised campaign ads on participation, it is vital that our understanding of the effects of political advertising be based on sound assumptions. Yet research regarding emotion and politics relies almost exclusively upon self-reported measures. How does reliance on self-reported measures of emotion impact our understanding of the short-term motivational forces that impact political participation? Using a randomized experiment with carefully manipulated campaign advertisements, I find evidence that an alternative measure of emotional response, physiological arousal, is a powerful predictor of citizens’ willingness to participate in politics. Arousal is not simply a proxy for self-reported emotion, but rather, a different and complementary measure of the emotional experience. I also explore the relationship between arousal and self-reported emotion and find evidence that the translation of arousal into self-reported emotion depends in part on characteristics of the message such as partisan tone and on characteristics of the individual such as political knowledge.

Emotion and Public Opinion

This chapter looks at the role of emotion in public opinion, first discussing how emotion has been understood and theorized by various scholars. Next, it views the present research on the consequences of emotion for political behaviour and public opinion, and ends with a review of the contribution of emotion to the study of certain substantive domains. The chapter notes that the study of public opinion and emotion is a new but fast-growing field, one which promises to make huge contributions to the understanding of politics.