Emotions, Public Opinion and U.S. Presidential Approval Rates: A 5 Year Analysis of Online Political Discussions
University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication
Rafael E. Banchs
Institute for Infocomm Research
November 25, 2011
Human Communication Research, Forthcoming
This paper examines how emotional reactions to political events shape public opinion. We analyze political discussions in which people voluntarily engage online to approximate the public agenda: online discussions offer a natural approach to the salience of political issues and the means to analyze emotional reactions as political events take place in real time. We measure shifts in the emotions of the public over a period that includes two U.S. presidential elections, the attacks of September 11, and the start of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our findings show that emotional reactions to political events help explain approval rates for the same period, which casts novel light on the mechanisms that mediate the association between agenda setting and political evaluations. Our contribution is twofold: we show that online discussions contain information that is representative of public opinion trends; and we provide evidence that emotions can be used as consistent indicators of political attitudes on a societal scale.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: agenda setting, priming, public opinion, emotions, political discussions, online interactions, sentiment analysis, approval rates
Date posted: November 25, 2011
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