Divided We Feel: Partisan Politics Drive Americans' Emotions Regarding Surveillance of Low-Income Populations
A Report from the Annenberg School for Communication University of Pennsylvania, 2018
31 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2020
Date Written: April 27, 2018
We report here on the first national survey that examines Americans’ emotional responses to surveillance practices that disproportionately affect low-income populations. In the US, low-income individuals and people of color are more likely than others to experience commonplace monitoring by government and business. In the digital era these activities can exacerbate social tensions as they contribute to a new frontier of social profiling. Our findings show that the political divide manifests itself in the emotions Americans associate with everyday institutional surveillance. Party affiliation and political ideology impact how Americans feel about all these activities far more than do income, age, gender, and race/ethnicity.
Our innovative nationally representative telephone (cell and wireline) survey was carried out for The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication by SSRS during January and February 2018. We presented 1,499 adults with real-life surveillance scenarios that potentially affect any Americans as well as scenarios more likely to impact those with low annual household incomes. After briefly describing each scenario we presented respondents with what psychologists describe as basic emotional pairings: happy or sad, pleased or angry, unbothered or creeped out, safe or threatened, and expected or surprised. We asked respondents to tell us which feeling in each paired emotion every scenario provoked.
We found that many Americans from across the political spectrum are not troubled by the everyday surveillance practices described in the survey. Yet Democrats and Independents are almost always substantially more negative than Republicans in their feelings about surveillance.
Keywords: Political Polarization, Surveillance, Republicans, Democratics, Poverty, National Survey
JEL Classification: I
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation