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Fear and Learning in the Illegal Immigration Debate
Unformatted Document Text:  racially diverse sample to explore the way that group membership and prior predispositions about immigration may blunt the effects of fear on cognition and policy preferences. Classic models of democracy expect that citizens pay close attention to the political world and form policy opinions based on knowledge and deliberation of the costs and benefits of policy. Yet more than five decades of survey research reveals that a majority of citizens know very little about politics (Converse 1964; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Zaller 1992) and mostly rely on elite cues and partisanship in forming opinions rather than gathering information about politics (Campbell et al 1960; Lau and Redlawsk 2001b). Scholarship on the role of affect in politics demonstrates that anxiety may increase citizens’ motivation to seek information and rely less heavily on “standing decisions” such as partisanship in making political decisions (Brader 2006; Marcus 2002; Marcus et al 2000; Neuman et al 2007). Marcus, Neuman, and MacKuen’s Affective Intelligence (AI) theory posits that since anxiety is unpleasant, when citizens become anxious about political issues or actors, they are motivated to lower that anxiety by finding information that will either confirm their previous attitude or help them change their minds. One major implication of the AI theory is that citizens will mainly rely on their political habits to guide new decisions unless they are made anxious about candidates or issues. Once anxious, citizens will be much more motivated to learn, pay more attention to news coverage, and will base political decisions more heavily on contemporary information rather than partisanship. Anxious citizens not only pay closer attention to news that they encounter but also seek out additional information relevant to the issue or candidate that provoked the anxiety. Thus, anxious citizens are not only more informed but are also more open to persuasion. Both experimental and empirical work testing the predictions of the AI theory demonstrates a link between anxiety and the desire for more information. Marcus et al (2000) 3

Authors: Gadarian, Shana. and Albertson, Bethany.
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background image
racially diverse sample to explore the way that group membership and prior predispositions
about immigration may blunt the effects of fear on cognition and policy preferences.
Classic models of democracy expect that citizens pay close attention to the political
world and form policy opinions based on knowledge and deliberation of the costs and benefits of
policy. Yet more than five decades of survey research reveals that a majority of citizens know
very little about politics (Converse 1964; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Zaller 1992) and mostly
rely on elite cues and partisanship in forming opinions rather than gathering information about
politics (Campbell et al 1960; Lau and Redlawsk 2001b). Scholarship on the role of affect in
politics demonstrates that anxiety may increase citizens’ motivation to seek information and rely
less heavily on “standing decisions” such as partisanship in making political decisions (Brader
2006; Marcus 2002; Marcus et al 2000; Neuman et al 2007). Marcus, Neuman, and MacKuen’s
Affective Intelligence (AI) theory posits that since anxiety is unpleasant, when citizens become
anxious about political issues or actors, they are motivated to lower that anxiety by finding
information that will either confirm their previous attitude or help them change their minds. One
major implication of the AI theory is that citizens will mainly rely on their political habits to
guide new decisions unless they are made anxious about candidates or issues. Once anxious,
citizens will be much more motivated to learn, pay more attention to news coverage, and will
base political decisions more heavily on contemporary information rather than partisanship.
Anxious citizens not only pay closer attention to news that they encounter but also seek out
additional information relevant to the issue or candidate that provoked the anxiety. Thus, anxious
citizens are not only more informed but are also more open to persuasion.
Both experimental and empirical work testing the predictions of the AI theory
demonstrates a link between anxiety and the desire for more information. Marcus et al (2000)
3


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