Election Reactions: Expressive Violence & Social Cohesion

In this post, Jena Morrison explores how the reaction to a presidential election can correlate with an upturn in community responses, particularly in incidents of expressive violence and efforts to create social cohesion.

In the days following a very close election, there are a lot of emotions running high throughout the entire country. Some are excited about new prospects, a change in leadership, and of the new path for the country. Others are afraid for their families, their safety, and for what the future may hold. Across the country and throughout the world, we are struggling with these emotions, the reactions of others, and watching to see what will happen next.

Expressive Violence

Expressive crimes, those that are motivated by the need to express anger, frustration, rage, and feelings of powerlessness are often seen in the aftermath of events such as this (Siegel 2016). With such a close race and high emotions, we often feel the need to be heard and to express our emotional turmoil. For some, this means emotional displays of crying, yelling, or even spending extra time at the gym. For others, however, this can result in expressive crimes such as assaults and even riots.

In the aftermath of the forecasted results, several news sites reported a break out of riots particularly those at University of California, Los Angeles, University of Oregon, and the University of California, Davis (Chabba 2016). An up-tick in crime, particularly crimes such as arson, property destruction, and assault can be common after events that we perceive as traumatic.

Social Cohesion

Social cohesion is the connection between individuals within society and is a result of the social bonds, levels of reciprocity, and the perception of trust and shared values of individuals within a community, area, or nation (Greene, Paranjothy, & Palmer 2015). In the aftermath of the election, some of us may choose to reach out and create social cohesion between ourselves and those around us. This can be done by providing a space for open communication and a way for individuals in the area to simply meet and gain reassurance. As a result of the current event, some campus groups have reached out to offer safe spaces, places to pray, counseling, and even provided a suicide-prevention hotline in an effort to show support (Knott & Najmabadi 2016). By creating a place where everyone is welcome to vent their frustrations and opportunities for those who want to help to do so, social cohesion has the potential to act as a stabilizing force to traumatic events and social upheaval (Greene, Paranjothy, & Palmer 2015).

As the nation continues to adjust to these changes in the weeks to come, we’ll continue to see these themes of emotional expression and the need for community evolve. Even days later, many of us continue to look for ways to deal with our own feelings and that of those around us. With the concepts of expressive violence and social cohesion in hand, all of us can better understand how the feelings of individuals fit into the larger social picture.

Dig Deeper:

  1. Expressive crimes are often associated with lower social classes and high drug and alcohol use (Siegel, 2016). How do the riots at college campuses in California and Oregon fit in with this?
  2. What reactions have you seen in your own community? How do they fit in with either of these concepts?
  3. What are some ways that these crimes can be deterred at the local level or national level?
  4. Are there ways that you as an individual can make a positive impact to your community and help to create social cohesion?


  • Chabba, S. 2016. “Donald Trump Elected President: Riots Break Out At University Campuses After Republican’s Win.” International Business Times. Retrieved November 9, http://www.ibtimes.com/donald-trump-elected-president-riots-break-out-university-campuses-after-republicans-2443978
  • Greene, G., Paranjothy, S., & Palmer, S. R. 2015. “Resilience and vulnerability to the psychological harm from flooding: The role of social cohesion.” American Journal of Public Health, 105(9), 1792-1795. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302709
  • Knott, K. and Najamabadi, S. 2016. “Traumatized and Indignant, College Students React to a Trump Presidency.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved November 9, http://www.chronicle.com/article/TraumatizedIndignant/238357?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=50d6985d37c84c84bd48398392d4e597&elq=90d6906dda624264b5ec9cf3f72b3eee&elqaid=11433&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=4460
  • Siegel, L. 2016. Criminology: Theories, patterns, and typologies, 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.