Their Minds Will Follow: Examining the Role of Voters' Emotions When Formulating Attitudes on Campaign Issues in the 2004 and 2008 Presidential Elections
Yates, Heather E.
University of Kansas
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Emotions and voters' feelings in political contexts are not typically the focal point of voting behavior research. Political science has traditionally emphasized the rational component of voting behavior. Classic scholars posited that voters functioned like rational actors, who were motivated to maximize personal utility and benefit to make a political decision. Only after the discipline's Behavioral Revolution was scholars' attention captured by the effect of emotions on voting behavior. Little attention, however, was given to how emotions influenced voters' choices. Most research focused on how candidates' personalities facilitated specific emotional contexts in which voters responded. Analyzing survey data from the American National Elections Studies (ANES) for the Presidential elections of 2004 and 2008, this study seeks to understand differences in the ANES emotional indicators from each election. Drawing on the conventional wisdom that suggests emotions influence attitude formation and perceptions of reality, this dissertation accounts for changes in the national political mood between 2004 and 2008. Additionally, this project examines the special case of how emotions mattered among women and African-American voting blocks in the 2008 Presidential campaign. The unique political context 2008 furnishes three unique variables of interest; the first American presidential campaign to feature a Black man as a front-runner nominee, second, women made inroads showcased by Hillary Clinton's competitive Democratic Primary, and the Republican Party nominated its first woman vice presidential candidate. The scope of this research focused on the voter's personal emotional reactions to a presidential candidate by addressing this question; do voters' feelings toward a candidate influence his or her attitudes about campaign issues? This project builds upon the theory of Affective Intelligence by applying of the transfer-of-affect thesis to argue that voters' emotional responses to candidates are interpreted as salient information that guides a vote choice. The results suggest that voters transfer their feelings about a certain candidate onto campaign issues and rely on their emotional assessments of a candidate to evaluate a campaign issue.
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- Political Science Dissertations and Theses 
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