The Strategic Use of Fear in Public Policy Debates Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Jansa, Joshua
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • While emotions are powerful determinants of political behavior, how these emotions are activated by the appeals of elites is not fully understood. However, this needs to change given the potentially large impact of emotions on policy outcomes. This paper argues that political actors will appeal to different emotions depending on their policy stance; defenders of the status quo appeal to fear and enthusiasm and proponents of change appeal to hope and anger. Hope and anger lead to risk taking behavior that proponents of change need to harness in efforts to persuade citizens and lawmakers to change policy. Likewise, defenders of the status quo appeal to fear and enthusiasm in an effort to maximize risk averse behavior. To test the theory, a dictionary of fear words is applied to statements on gun control in an automated content analysis. Support is found for the hypothesis that defenders of the status quo use fear at a higher rate than advocates of change. Most importantly, the study lays the groundwork for new forays into the mediating force of emotion in relationship between political actors and the mass public in the public policy process.
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  • In Copyright
  • Baumgartner, Frank
  • Master of Arts
Graduation year
  • 2013

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