American Rage: How Anger Shapes Our Politics, Steven W. Webster

Reviewed by Marzia Oceno



Anger has become increasingly pervasive in U.S. politics. Recently, we have witnessed a sharp rise in displays of anger across several contexts: campaigns and elections, large protests and riots, social media, and the news. In American Rage, Steven W. Webster walks us through the current political climate dominated by outrage at the opposing party, its leaders, and its supporters. It offers us a much-needed explanation of how we got here and where we are likely to be heading.

The book is divided into two parts. The first discusses anger as a consequence of partisan sorting with racial, ethnic, cultural, and ideological identities, as well as of the drastic changes to the media landscape, which has become characterized by polarized news echo chambers and the internet. The second part is the main focus of American Rage. Webster employs several survey and experimental studies to demonstrate that rage has serious and deleterious consequences not only for attitudes toward opposing partisans, but also for American democracy. As both a personality trait and an emotion, anger leads to lower trust in government—a greater belief that the national government is unresponsive to the public. Moreover, angry citizens display a weaker commitment to democratic norms and values: they are more likely to believe that out-party supporters represent a threat

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