Enter emotions. Appealing to anxiety and anger in a proces of municipal amalgamation

RCPS_COVER_9-03.inddArticle with Imrat Verhoeven in Critical Policy Studies.

In recent years, emotions have taken center stage in studying politics. However, the field of interpretive policy analysis has largely neglected emotions. In this paper, we argue that we can enter emotions by studying emotional appeals by collective political actors, which are conveyed through emotion words and metaphors. For our empirical analysis, we draw on the political mobilization against the municipal amalgamation of The Hague and its vicinity in The Netherlands between 1997 and 2001. Our analysis indicates that the framing by collective actors contained emotional appeals to anxiety and anger, shifting, over time, from anxiety to anger. This shift resonated with citizens’ opinions and feelings, and provided important emotional energy to citizens’ protest against municipal amalgamation. These emotional appeals provided emotional energy that fueled many protest activities during the summer and fall of 1998. These findings are also relevant for studying other policy controversies and to more mundane processes of policy formation and implementation.