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Voter Affect and the 2017 German Federal Election: How Anger and Enthusiasm Shape Voting Intentions

Elections
Political Psychology
Populism
Voting
Political Sociology
Electoral Behaviour
Survey Research
Voting Behaviour
Lena Masch
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Lena Masch
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Abstract

In light of the rising right-wing populism across Europe, emotions towards politics and political leaders have gained importance in the public debate. So far, empirical research has rarely focused on feelings towards political leaders as influential factors in voting decisions. Previous research has found that feelings towards presidential candidates can affect voting intentions, particularly feelings of hope (Finn & Glaser 2010), and populist attitudes can be shaped by feelings of anger (Rico et al. 2017). This paper investigates the link between feelings towards candidates, party preferences and voting intentions in the 2017 German federal election. By drawing on data from a representative survey conducted in the final weeks leading up to the election, self-reported feelings of anger and enthusiasm towards both main contestants – Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz – are analyzed as influential factors regarding participants’ individual candidate preferences, party preferences, and voting intentions. The analysis controls for sociodemographic factors, party identification, and the perceived importance of political issues. Because the candidate and party preferences are influenced by self-reported feelings towards candidates, especially feelings of anger, the paper further analyzes explanatory factors that increase the probability of reporting strong feelings of anger and enthusiasm towards both contestants, such as the perceptions of the individual, regional, and national economic situation.