Feinberg, M., Ford, et al.
(2020, September 19).
Politics and its controversies have permeated everyday life, but the daily impact of politics is largely unknown. Here, we conceptualize politics as a chronic stressor with important consequences for people’s daily lives. We used longitudinal, daily-diary methods to track U.S. participants as they experienced daily political events across two weeks (Study 1: N=198, observations=2,167) and, separately, across three weeks (Study 2: N=811, observations=12,790) to explore how daily political events permeate people’s lives and how they cope with this influence of politics. In both studies, daily political events consistently evoked negative emotions, which corresponded to worse psychological and physical well-being, but also increased motivation to take political action (e.g., volunteer, protest) aimed at changing the political system that evoked these emotions in the first place. Understandably, people frequently tried to regulate their politics-induced emotions; and successfully regulating these emotions using cognitive strategies (reappraisal and distraction) predicted greater well-being, but also weaker motivation to take action. Although people can protect themselves from the emotional impact of politics, frequently-used regulation strategies appear to come with a trade-off between well being and action. To examine whether an alternative approach to one’s emotions could avoid this trade-off, we measured emotional acceptance in Study 2 (i.e., accepting one’s emotions without trying to change them) and found that successful acceptance predicted greater daily well-being but no impairment to political action. Overall, this research highlights how politics can be a chronic stressor in people’s daily lives, underscoring the far-reaching influence politicians have beyond the formal powers endowed unto them.
In all, our research bridges political psychology and affective science theory and methods, and highlights how these distinct literatures can intersect to answer important, unexplored questions. Our findings show that the political is very much personal–a pattern with powerful consequences for people’s daily lives. More generally, by demonstrating how political events personally impact the average citizen, including their psychological and physical health, our study reveals the far-reaching impact politicians have, beyond the formal powers endowed unto them.