June 30, 2008

Where You Vote Affects Your Vote

I spotted this little item today in Scientific American:
"Location, location, location. We all know it’s true of real estate. But it may also apply to the ballot box. Because a team of American researchers has found that where people vote affects how they vote. The scientists looked at results from the 2000 general election. In Arizona that year, the ballot included an initiative to raise state taxes to support education. What they found is that people who happened to be voting in a school building were more likely to vote for the proposal than people who voted at a firehouse or a church. Their results appear in the June 23rd issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"And same thing happened in the lab. Subjects were shown a series of images, some of which pertained to schools. Later on, in what they were told was an unrelated experiment, they were asked to vote on funding for education. Folks who’d looked at lockers were more likely to vote yes. Whether voting in a church might affect where people stand on gay marriage or stem cell research remains to be seen. But it’s probably a good thing that more people don’t cast ballots in diners—might make it impossible to get rid of all that political pork."

Seems like quite an interesting study, but I wonder how far subliminal influences can be taken in terms of votes. It makes you wonder if government proposals on education in the UK were voted on in schools rather than in the House of Commons might be beneficial for such measures, what to speak of proposals to do with other issues being voted on in buildings reminiscent of said issue. The sheer weight of history aside, it can't be healthy for successive governments to vote on proposals in the same dusty old building since the 10th Century.

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