It's My Campaign I'll Cry if I Want to: How and When Campaigns Use Emotional Appeals



Recent research in the area of campaign advertising suggests that emotional appeals can influence political attitudes, electoral choices and decision-making processes. Yet is there any evidence that candidates use emotional appeals strategically during campaigns? Is there a pattern to their use? For instance, are fear appeals used primarily late in the campaign by trailing candidates in order to get voters to rethink their choices? And are enthusiasm appeals used more commonly early on in order to shore up a candidate's base? We use affective intelligence theory—and supplement it with the idea of a voter backlash—to generate expectations about when candidates use certain emotional appeals (namely, anger, fear, enthusiasm, and pride) and which types of candidates are most likely to do so. We then test these ideas using campaign advertising data from several U.S. Senate races from 2004. Our research thus provides a link between research on campaign decision making—here the decision to “go emotional”—and research focusing on the effects of emotional appeals on voters.