Past research in political science finds contradictory effects of threat on political behavior. Some researchers find that threatening events of statements increase engagement with politics. Other researchers, meanwhile, find that threat can lead to disengagement. Meanwhile, threat may either increase political opinion polarization or general conservatism, depending on the study. In my dissertation, I identify perceived control over threat as the key factor which predicts which effect threat will have on political behavior. Using both experimental and observational data, I show that preventable (high control) threat increases political engagement, while also increasing political polarization. Inevitable (low control) threat decreases political engagement, while also increasing support for maintaining the status quo (and preventing change). Ultimately, both kinds of threat may have negative consequences for democracy, either by encouraging more fervent political extremism or by dissuading people from getting involved in politics at all.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2018. Major: Political Science. Advisor: Paul Goren. 1 computer file (PDF); 176 pages.
It’s All Under Control: The Conditional Effects of Threat on Political Behavior.
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