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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Resentment versus Gratitude: Emotions and Support for Democracy-Eroding Populists

Comparative Politics
Political Psychology
Survey Experiments
Jennifer McCoy
Georgia State University
Jennifer McCoy
Georgia State University

This paper uses online survey experiments to investigate the conditions that lead to increased individual attitudes of populism, political tribalism and tolerance of democratic erosion. We hypothesize that relative deprivation involving perceptions of injury, injustice and unfairness produce negative emotions of resentment, disappointment, anger and disgust, whereas solidarity involving perceptions of being helped produces positive emotions of gratitude, satisfaction and happiness. We further hypothesize that political rhetoric emphasizing relative deprivation versus solidarity exacerbates the impact of these emotions on political attitudes.
Building on literature in psychology about relative deprivation and resentment and its potential antidote of gratitude, dominant group status threats as a cause of populist support, and the role of political rhetoric in exacerbating the Us versus Them dynamics of political polarization and tribalism, we are seeking antidotes to the growing support of populist authoritarianism. Our research seeks to better understand the micro-foundations of political tribalism, populism, and tolerance of democratic erosion, and in particular how emotions contribute to these political attitudes.
The author is currently conducting one large (2000 respondents) national online survey experiment in the U.S. in November 2019, and plans another smaller pilot survey in Hungary in early 2019. McCoy is a member of the international research group, Team Populism, and also has led a second international research group on pernicious polarization for the last two years, resulting in two current special journal issues in American Behavioral Scientist (Jan 2018) and in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (Jan 2019). McCoy will be a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, Central European University in Budapest during spring semester 2019.
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