Honeymoon or hangover? How election outcomes produce emotional shifts to winning candidate smiles

Patrick A. Stewart, Carl Senior, Erik P. Bucy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Presidential elections are emotion-laden affairs felt psychologically by both competitors and followers. The emotional fallout of losing competitive contests has been documented in the literature but little research has considered the change in affect among political followers in the aftermath of an unsuccessful election. This study examines changes in self-reported happiness, anger, and distress to different smile types expressed by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, measured immediately prior to and again following the 2012 presidential election. A panel of online respondents (N = 214) were shown four video clips featuring different smile types from each candidate before and after the election. Obama's clips featured an amusement and controlled-amusement smile, while Romney's featured a posed and contempt smiles. Findings revealed significant differences in self-reported emotional response to Obama. Followers of Obama reported an increase in happiness when shown examples of the president's smile after the election but no change in response to Romney's smiles. However, Romney's followers reported a significant increase in anger and distress towards Obama's smiles post-election, but minimal change to their own candidate. Election outcomes not only determine office holders; they also produce emotional shifts in the electorate that are most responsive to the electoral victor.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109599
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date13 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Consensual losers
  • Emotional response
  • Facial displays
  • Followers
  • Individual differences
  • Leadership
  • Losing
  • Presidential elections
  • Smiles
  • Winning


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