Deplorables: Emotions, Political Sophistication, and Political Intolerance

James Gibson, Christopher Claassen, Joan Barceló

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While scholars have shown strong interest in the role of emotions in politics, questions remain about the connections between emotions and political intolerance. First, it is not clear which emotion (if any) is likely to produce intolerance toward one’s disliked groups, with different studies favoring hatred, anger, or fear. Second, it is unclear whether these effects of emotion are moderated by sophistication, as some conventional political thought argues. Do the less-sophisticated rely on emotions when making judgments, therefore being less tolerant than sophisticates, who rely on reason? Here, we test both hypotheses using a large representative sample Americans. We find that hatred, anger, and fear are significantly but only modestly related to political intolerance. Moreover, the effects of emotions on intolerance are not consistently stronger among the unsophisticated. These findings provide little support for the conventional assumption that the less-sophisticated rely on their emotions in making political judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-262
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • deplorables
  • emotion
  • political sophistication
  • political tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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