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The emotional valence of candidate ratings in televised debates

Pascal D. König EMAIL logo , Thomas Waldvogel , Uwe Wagschal , Bernd Becker , Linus Feiten and Samuel Weishaupt
From the journal Communications

Abstract

It is well-established that party identity biases the processing of political information and the evaluation of political actors. This is presumed to avoid cognitive dissonance and achieve positive affect. What happens, however, when individuals diverge from this pattern and do make identity-inconsistent evaluations of political actors – how does this translate into positive and negative emotions toward the candidates? The paper addresses this question using large-N data from the main televised debate of the 2017 German national election by combining survey responses with viewer perceptions measured during the debate. The findings suggest that candidate ratings made during the debate have different valence depending on a person’s party identity. Strikingly, a stronger party identity does not mean a reduced impact of identity-inconsistent evaluations on emotional responses toward a candidate. Rather, only evaluations in accordance with one’s party identity, and hence with lower information value, show a reduced effect on emotional responses.

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Published Online: 2022-09-10
Published in Print: 2022-09-07

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