The November 6th election has seen record turnout in some states that were electing senators and representatives. Use of fear has been around for a long time but this election has seen unpresident increase.

From Donald Trump's use of the immigration crisis called ''the caravan'' he's used this tactic that these people are gangs, rapists, and has even claimed some to be Middle Easterners with no factual evidence. In a series of tweets sent early Monday morning, Trump claimed the caravan included “unknown Middle Easterners”, presumably in an attempt to link the caravan to fears among some voters about Islam and terrorism.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that Democrats are funding the caravan. At a rally in Montana, for example, he claimed that

“a lot of money has been passing to people to come up and try and get to the border by election day, because they think that’s a negative for us … They have lousy policy … they wanted that caravan, and there are those that say that caravan didn’t just happen. It didn’t just happen.”

There's als fear that democrats will ''take away'' people's guns and repeal 2nd Amendment.

Now this isn't just republicans using these tactics, democrats also use these fear tactics also.

In 2018, however, candidates and outside groups – particularly in House and governors races – are flooding the airwaves with pointed and sometimes dramatic messages.

“I’m running for governor because I’m a parent who will not stop at anything until we make our gun laws stronger and our children safe,”

says Philip Levine, a candidate in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, which has drawn the largest number of spots favoring gun-control.

Then there's the issue of Social Security and Medicare. Democrats issued warnings about the peril Republicans pose to Medicare and Social Security, accusing the GOP of plotting to cut critical safety net programs to close a budget deficit of their own making.

“A vote for Republican candidates in this election is a vote to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,”

argued Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Do these types of "fear" work at the ballots or drive people to the polls?

  • 1
    In Trump's particular case, it seems to have had precisely the opposite effect, driving people to the polls to vote against Republicans.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 10, 2018 at 18:32
  • 1
    Fear needn't be in quotes.
    – agc
    Nov 12, 2018 at 0:46
  • @jamesqf it always has that effect. Always. Likewise for the other side. People never give due consideration to the backlash. Nov 13, 2018 at 16:09
  • @Jared Smith: The backlash was particularly noticable in my state, at least for me personally. I would normally be reluctant to vote for a Democrat, andonly marginally less so for a Republican. But for maybe two months, I got an attack mailer from the Republican Senate incumbent just about every day, most if not all of them entirely groundless. So I held my nose and voted for the Democrat.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 13, 2018 at 19:03
  • @jamesqf lol you aren't in Indiana per chance? I did the exact same thing. Nov 13, 2018 at 19:40

2 Answers 2


It has long been known in psychological circles that fear beats hope when it comes to motivating a person to do something. Likewise, attack ads are more effective than positive political ads at motivating voting behavior.

In addition, the type of fear matters. If you're put in fear of your safety, you become proactive way more often than fear of social loss or even long-term-health. Donald Trump won in 2016 largely on this trend. Abraham Maslow long ago posited a pyramid of human needs, showing that we need the bottom sections steady before looking for higher needs. Safety is the second bar from the bottom, and inclusion is above that.


Yes, and research shows that fear is more effective on conservative mind

Hat tip to Are there systematic personality differences between liberals and conservatives?

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