AVERT (Addressing Violent Extremism and Radicalisation to Terrorism) Research Seminar
The positive role of negative emotions in facilitating democratic engagement has come to the fore in recent political science research. But negative emotions are not always a democratic plus. We provide needed balance to the study of political emotions by considering their potential democratic benefits and detriments, focusing on the emotional origins of selective exposure to news coverage of terrorist violence.
Drawing on data from a two-wave national online panel, we find that anxiety generates avoidance of anxiety-arousing exposure to news stories about terrorist violence whereas anger promotes consumption and repeat exposure to such news. The decision to view footage of terrorist attacks is consistent with an emotion regulation model of selective news exposure (Gross 1998).
Anger and its exposure to terrorist violence matters politically by directly increasing support for an aggressive national security policy including the use of torture. In contrast, anxiety and the attendant avoidance of news concerning terrorist violence has fewer consequences for public support of national security policy. In developing an emotion regulation approach to the study of political emotion, we underscore the political implications of a highly arousing online news environment in which threatening content is avoided by some and avidly consumer by others.
Leonie Huddy is a Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She studies political behavior in the United States and elsewhere through the lens of intergroup relations, with a special focus on gender, race, and ethnic relations. Her recent work extends that focus to the study of partisan identities in the United States and Western Europe.