The Journal of Politics


Two Types of Neutrality: Ambivalence versus Indifference and Political Participation

Sung-jin Yooa1

a1 Ewha Womans University


The traditional attitude theory has a serious flaw as a guide for the study of political behavior. It is unable to distinguish two types of neutrality: ambivalence (balance of positive and negative affect) and indifference (lack of either affect). A recent theory on attitudes offers a solution with its premise that individuals are capable of holding positive and negative attitudes about a single object simultaneously and independently. This two-dimensional theory suggests that individuals with an ambivalent attitude differ fundamentally from those with an indifferent attitude. I find that ambivalent citizens are far more likely to turn out to vote in elections than are indifferent ones. It is only indifferent individuals, lacking any affect for parties and candidates, who exhibit the low turnout expected of those with no clear preference. Being conflicted about parties and candidates does not pose much of a barrier to casting a vote.

(Received October 14 2008)

(Accepted May 30 2009)


Sung-jin Yoo is a post-doctoral research fellow at Ewha Womans University. Seoul 120-750, Republic of Korea.