The Gag Reflex: Disgust Rhetoric and Gay Rights in American Politics

Shana Kushner Gadarian, Eric van der Vort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Political scientists have increasingly looked to the role that disgust plays in shaping public opinion and attitudes. This emotion plays an important role in building and reinforcing boundaries in the polity. It is particularly important in shaping attitudes toward gay rights. We analyze data from the 1993 American National Election Studies (ANES) data and two original studies. We find that disgust is a powerful but contingent rhetorical tool. It can powerfully shape public attitudes, especially on issues of sexual purity, but that efficacy must come with a strong caveat: our findings show that some members of the public will reject disgust rhetoric as an indignant reaction against the speaker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-543
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Disgust
  • Emotion
  • Gay rights
  • Rhetoric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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