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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Emotions as a Mediator Between the Perceptions of Relative Deprivation and Populist Attitudes

Social Justice
Experimental Design
Ekaterina Lytkina
Universität Bremen
Ekaterina Lytkina
Universität Bremen

The paper aims to contribute to the theoretical and empirical perspectives of understanding the role of emotions in enhancing populist attitudes. The contribution is threefold.
Firstly, it is proposed that emotions may be regarded as a mediator between perceptions of societal processes and political attitudes and behaviors. Particularly, I propose a model, where the perceptions of relative deprivation are hypothesized to enhance populist attitudes, and emotions are considered to be a mediator of this relationship. In accordance with appraisal theories, an emotion emerges as a response to some external or internal stimulus event evaluation (Scherer, 2005). That is why, emotions should be studied in relation to concrete events, opinions, and cannot, unlike commonly treated in literature, be equated to general attitudes towards politics (e.g., Rico et al., 2016).
Secondly, emotions are not only related to a specific stimulus, but also are unstable. Appraisals and emotional responses change rapidly (Scherer, 2005). That is why an experimental setting seems to be one of the most advantageous ways for studying emotions. Additionally, an experiment better enables one to study the impact of changing environment on political attitudes (and populist attitudes in particular), as well as to study such situations when individuals under certain conditions lean to populist attitudes or behaviors (cf., Urbanska & Guimond, 2018).
Thirdly, based on appraisal theory (e.g., Scherer, 2001), emotions emerging from the appraisal of an event causing perceptions of fraternal relative deprivation are predicted as well as how these emotions affect populist attitudes. For instance, anger should enhance populist attitudes, whereas sadness, anxiety, fear, or shame should decrease them.
Results of an experiment testing the proposed mechanism are presented.
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