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Is a Worried Citizen a Good Citizen? Emotions, Political Information Seeking, and Learning via the Internet



In this study we explore the mediating role of emotions in the process of becoming a politically informed citizen. Contrary to previous studies, we expect that anger and anxiety will have much different effects on this process. We suspect the role of anxiety is somewhat unique even among negative emotions as mediator of the causal effect of political threats on information seeking and learning. In addition, we speculate that anxiety should improve the quality of information seeking, not just its quantity. In one experiment, we induce emotions directly and find that while anger, enthusiasm, and anxiety can lead people to claim they will pay attention to the campaign, anger actually depresses total information seeking. In a second experiment, we examine the impact of realistic political threats and find that exposure triggers several emotions but that only anxiety boosts information seeking and learning.