Gender Differences in Emotional Reactions to the First 2016 Presidential Debate

Kim L. Fridkin, Sarah Allen Gershon, Jillian Courey, Kristina LaPlant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The first presidential debate of 2016 was historic along a number of dimensions, including the first woman general election candidate and the first general election candidate in history with no political or military experience. Given the presence of the first woman nominee of a major party, along with dramatic gender differences in support for the candidates, we focus on the role of gender in shaping people’s emotional responses to candidate messaging during the debate. Through the use of a controlled experiment, we measure changes in attitudes after exposure to the debate. In addition, we utilize facial expression software to explore real-time reaction to the candidates during the debate. Leveraging data generated during the debate by the facial expression software and as well as responses to pretest and post-test questionnaires, we find that men and women respond differently to candidates’ messaging during the debate and these emotional responses influence post-debate evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-85
Number of pages31
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Debates
  • Emotions
  • Gender
  • Political attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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