The Person in Political Emotion


  • I would like to thank Eileen Zurbriggen, Nicolay Gausel, Valerie Earnshaw, Aarti Iyer, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous drafts of this article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Colin Wayne Leach, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, U-1020, Storrs, CT 06269-1020. Email:


ABSTRACT Recent social psychological theory and research on political issues has returned to once-popular concepts such as political emotion and ideology. Strikingly, however, this work tends to avoid the notion of personality and explicit reference to individual differences. For example, the numerous studies that examine correlations between political beliefs, feelings, and preferences rarely acknowledge that such associations show an ideological coherence in individuals. Instead, correlations between abstract constructs are interpreted as suggesting causal processes. Individuals, and their responses, are aggregated to generate such correlations but remain for the most part unexamined and unmentioned. I discuss 5 practices in research and reporting that make it difficult to find the person in correlational models of political emotion. I use my own research to illustrate these practices and to show how attention to macrolevel forces such as group membership, status, and structure may be integrated with attention to the individual person and meaningful aggregates.