Better Angry than Anxious? The role of affect and responsibility attribution in economic voting


How do voters assign responsibility for economic hardship? The often posited relationship between economic performance and incumbent evaluation requires voters to believe that the incumbent government is actually responsible for the current state of the economy. But while the economic voting literature has increasingly recognized the importance of responsibility attributions, it is less clear how these attributions emerge in the first place.

Combining the economic voting literature with affect-appraisal theory, I show that affect, even when incidental to the decision-task at hand, influences how responsibility is assigned. Using both observational and experimental data, I show that angry respondents are more likely to assign blame for economic problems to the incumbent than their anxious counterparts. Affect, and the responsibility appraisals associated with it, thus moderate how periods of economic hardship are translated into incumbent evaluations, and are an important moderator for economic voting.