Motivation and Emotion

, 35:151 | Cite as

Motivating political preferences: Concerns with promotion and prevention as predictors of public policy attitudes

  • Gale M. Lucas
  • Daniel C. Molden
Original Paper


Motivation is an important component of many political decision making theories. However, different definitions of motivation have led to different conclusions as to how influential motivation is on political attitudes. When motivation has been defined in terms of personal interest, its predictive value has been questioned (Sears and Funk in Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 24. Academic Press, New York, pp. 1–91, 1991); however, other motivational variables like Schwartz’ (Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 25, Academic Press, New York, pp. 1–65, 1992) values have been found to be strong predictors of such attitudes. This article investigates the influence of another type of motivational variable. Specifically, two studies examined how chronic concerns with fundamental needs for security (i.e., prevention) and growth (i.e., promotion) relate to public policy attitudes. In samples of both college students and nationally representative US households and across a variety of policy areas, stronger prevention concerns predicted support for government intervention to maintain public and personal safety, whereas stronger promotion concerns predicted support for government intervention to ensure opportunities for growth and enrichment.


Motivated cognition Regulatory focus Public policy attitudes Personal interests 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWillamette UniversitySalemUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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