Moral emotions and political choice  

Rihtar S., Lamza Posavec V.
First author's affiliation: Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Zagreb, Croatia

Numerous studies in the area of global impression formation have shown that morality and competence form two separate and most important clusters of traits (with a strong evaluative component) in person perception, including perception, evaluation and choice of political actors. Although moral information is more easily processed than information about competence, moral impressions are stronger and more resistant to change than impressions about competence, contrary to the expectations of dual processing models. The assumption that moral emotions might be partly responsible for this phenomenon was verified in public opinion research, conducted prior to the parliamentary elections in 2007 on a nationally representative sample of adults in Croatia. Results have shown that moral emotions are, in addition to perceived competence and morality of political actors, significant and stronger predictors of political choice, that negative moral emotions are better predictors of political animosity than positive of political sympathy, and, finally, that moral emotions are more responsible for the polarization of voters and public in general than other criteria of political choice.