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Democratic and Republican Feelings Towards Social Issues Differ: But How?

We continue our series by examining the emotional connections Americans have to the key social issues that are facing the country. These hot button issues will impact and subsequently affect the first political debates that scheduled for June. It is interesting to see how these social issues connect with Democrats and Republicans in various ways, revealing more emotional insight about both parties. This measurement was conducted just before the midterm elections last fall and will be repeated soon.

AdSAM’s emotional temperature index displays the issues that are connecting with voters the strongest -- the higher the emotional temperature, the stronger the emotional response. On the thermometer, 100 represents an average emotional response, therefore the responses greater than 100 are above average and those less than 100 are below average.

Additionally, AdSAM creates emotional groups which chart the general class of emotions that respondents feel towards issues. With this measure, we can directly translate feelings to measurements, no interpretation necessary. The result – an easy way to see which issues connect with Democrats and Republicans the strongest!

We asked Americans the following questions to measure their emotional temperature regarding social issues:

  1. Concerning legal abortion, how do you feel about a woman’s right to choose?

  2. How do you feel about Common Core curriculum?

  3. How do you feel about the media’s coverage of elections?

  4. How do you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement?

  5. How do you feel about the Me Too movement?

  6. How do you feel about the state of education in the United States?

  7. How do you feel about Wall Street?

  8. In general, how do you feel about the state of firearm regulations?

  9. In general, how do you feel about the state of race relations in the United States?

For Republicans, the current state of firearms regulation is the most emotionally charged issue while feelings towards race relations are at the bottom. While only 3% of Republicans feel alarmed by our current state of firearm regulations, 25% of Democrats show feelings of alarm. This helps emphasize the bipartisan split in gun control issues.

With an emotional temperature of 105, the Republican response to a woman’s right to choose proves to be surprising. However, over half of Republicans can be classified as having ambivalent, sullen or alarmed feelings toward legal abortion; this plays into the current legislative stances that Republicans are taking on abortion issues in states like Georgia, Alabama and more.

The Democratic notion about the right to choose is emphasize by our emotional groups, as over 60% of Democrats feel comfortable, warmed and enthusiastic in regard to a woman’s right to choose.

One issue that Republicans and Democrats hold similar opinions about is ‘Common Core Curriculum’ for schools. With emotional the emotional temperatures not exceeding 90 by either party, it is evident that both groups are harboring negative feelings for this process. When looking at the emotional groups, we see that Democrats are more ambivalent with average levels of appeal and engagement. Republicans, with their negative appeal and a varying level of engagement, are far more alarmed about Common Core curriculum.


All of the temperature gauges seen in this article were developed and measured by and with AdSAM. AdSAM measures three key factors of emotion, appeal, engagement and empowerment, using a cross cultural, gender free visual measure of emotion.

In addition to the temperature gauges, AdSAM develops perceptual maps that show where each issue falls on average in an emotional space. Appeal and engagement fall upon the x- and y- axes, while empowerment is ranked by the size of the dot. The emotion adjectives on the perceptual map are derived from the AdSAM database and are shown in relationship to the responses on the map.

For more information about AdSAM’s deliverables and methodology, check out our website!

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