Does Anger Drive Populism?
We study whether anger fuels the rise of populism. Anger as an emotion tends to act as a call to action against individuals or groups that are blamed for negative situations, making it conducive to voting for populist politicians. Using a unique dataset tracking emotions for a large sample of respondents from 2008 to 2017, we explore the relationship between anger and the populist vote share across U.S. counties. More angry counties displayed stronger preferences for populist candidates during the 2016 presidential primaries and elections. However, once we control for other negative emotions and life satisfaction, anger no longer operates as a separate channel in driving the populist vote share. Instead, our results indicate that a more complex sense of malaise and gloom, rather than anger per se, drives the rise in populism.
We thank Levi Boxell, Rafael Di Tella, Ro'ee Levy, Jesse Shapiro, Ebonya Washington and seminar participants at UCLA and at the ASSA 2021 annual meeting for helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.