Varieties of Anxieties: Disaggregating Emotion and Voting Behavior in the COVID-19 Era

13 May 2024, Version 3
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


How does anxiety influence voting behavior? Whereas anxiety is usually treated as a unidimensional emotion, we highlight the multiplicity of socially contingent forms it can assume in response to societal threats. Different anxieties, we posit, can create distinct axes of political competition along which anxious voters exhibit widely varying preferences. We illustrate our argument with unique observational and experimental survey data from Spain’s COVID-19 crisis, showing that individuals anxious about the pandemic’s health consequences favored parties advocating stringent lockdown restrictions, whereas individuals anxious about its economic disruption preferred parties opposing such measures. Analyzing municipality-level results from Madrid’s 2021 regional election, we additionally provide evidence that COVID-19 boosted support for pro-lockdown parties in areas more exposed to its health effects and support for anti-lockdown parties in areas more exposed to its economic impact. Our findings point to the importance of disaggregating complex emotional states for understanding the determinants of voting behavior.


voting behavior


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