Emotions and Elections: Mapping the Emotional State of Voters After the 2020 Election Using Ecological Momentary Assessment

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Event Type: 
Brown Bag
Date and Time: 
Monday, February 13, 2023
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Evan Sandlin

How do voters respond emotionally to immediate election developments? Research shows that emotions play an important role in motivating political behavior and that election results can impact the subjective well-being of voters for up to six months. However, there has been little or no research into the immediate emotional effects of election results in a time where voters can receive nearly instantaneous election updates on their smartphones, other devices, through cable news, or through other social media. This paper maps the emotional states of voters through election-week using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data as part of the Understanding America Study’s (UAS) Burst Dataset. Ecological momentary assessment is a form of survey administration where the respondent’s current activity, subjective emotional well-being, and subjective physical well-being are assessed throughout the day using repeated sampling. Through the use of such data, this paper demonstrates that voters experienced heightened emotional states the day after the 2020 Election. Furthermore, Biden voters experienced more positive emotions in the days after the election while Trump voters did not. This trend peaks on November 7, 2020, the day most news networks called the election for Biden, when Biden voters were in their most positive emotional state and Trump voters were in their most negative emotional state of the week.