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The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that emotion plays a significant role in how people approach and reflect on political situations, namely national crises. Through the online distribution of an anonymous 26-question survey on constituent emotional response, identity affiliation, and approval of political leaders during COVID-19 and 9/11, the research investigates the role emotion plays in reflection and partisanship. Specifically, the paper seeks to evaluate and redefine how emotions, particularly anxiety and threat, instead of only operating on a subconscious System 1 level driving implicit bias, can instigate or function in tandem with reflection, a System 2 reasoning and cognitive process. Statistical analysis of the survey data collected from 288 participants demonstrates support for the hypothesis that emotions play a significant role in reflection––specifically confirmation bias. The results show that feelings of calm and safety correlate with lower levels of reflection. Additionally, the findings indicate an intersection between the effect of emotion and partisanship on reflection among the public, raising serious questions about the role of emotion in political participation. Furthermore, the tests reposition the concept of confirmation bias within System 2, as––despite reaffirming previous beliefs––it shows engagement with new information that changes how one views political situations and decisions. This paper exposes the importance of the effect emotions can have on constituency and elite behavior alike, shedding light on the importance of this underdeveloped area in Political Psychology and the necessity for further research.


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20 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • COVID-19 and 9/11

  • Journal title
    • International Social Science Review

  • Volume
    • 97

  • Issue
    • 3

  • Date submitted

    20 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      A special thank you to professor of Government, David Ciuk, for his class, Political Psychology, which instigated this paper, and for his guidance during the research, analysis, and editing process. An additional thank you to Margaret McGill and Andrea Yu for their peer review and assistance in the editing and reformatting of this paper. Jacqueline Curry graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 2020 with a B.A. in Political Science and Government.