The Emotional Underpinnings of Attitudes toward Transitional Justice

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What explains citizens’ attitudes toward transitional justice? Studies that examined the support for transitional justice mechanisms identified three sets of factors: individual, socialization, and contextual. Building on the hot cognition theory, this article argues that the past political regime is an emotionally charged sociopolitical object encoded with its evaluative history with consequences in people’s opinion-formation process. Drawing on a specialized survey in Spain, the results first suggest that negative emotions, especially anger and fear, significantly influence the support for stronger transitional justice measures, even after adjusting for relevant confounders such as ideology, religiosity, or victimization. Second, the findings show that those who lack an emotional engagement toward the past regime, the so-called bystanders, hold attitudes toward transitional justice that are indistinguishable from those who report positive feelings (pride, patriotism, and nostalgia) toward the past regime. The effects of emotions are sizable relative to other important determinants, including ideology, religiosity, and family’s ideology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-502
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Spain
  • democratization
  • emotions
  • political attitudes
  • transitional justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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