Outrage Drives Online Users to Engage with Ideology Inconsistent Political Content



People typically seek out information that aligns with their political ideology and avoid information that does not. Here we examine a boundary condition to this effect, in which the typical pattern of engagement reverses. Through a series of field studies, in which we exposed over half a million Americans to paid political posts on Facebook, we found that people were more likely to engage with posts advocating for an ideology-inconsistent political cause (e.g. conservatives exposed to posts supporting gun control) than an ideology-consistent one (e.g. conservatives exposed to posts opposing gun control). Our results suggest that such engagement is driven by the outrage generated by ideology-inconsistent content and that people fail to predict its effect, highlighting the important and unexpected role of negative emotions in online political engagement.