Where you vote affects how you vote
May 10, 2012 1 Comment
I voted at North Cary Baptist Church on Tuesday. I had lunch with a friend who talked about voting at my actual church, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Apex, NC. Got me to thinking it would be great to do a study to see if/how polling places affected how people voted on the gay marriage amendment. Chances are quite good that they actually did. Now, not enough to account for a 60-40 margin mind you, but it is fair to assume that the use of churches as polling places inflated the pro amendment vote to some small degree.
There’s actually been two really interesting studies that look at the impact of polling place on vote. The first looked at the impact of voting in schools:
Analysis of a recent general election demonstrates that people who were assigned to vote in schools were more likely to support a school funding initiative. This effect persisted even when controlling for voters’ political views, demographics, and unobservable characteristics of individuals living near schools. A follow-up experiment using random assignment suggests that priming underlies these effects, and that they can occur outside of conscious awareness. These findings underscore the subtle power of situational context to shape important real-world decisions.
In a similar vein, a fairly recent Political Psychology article found that churches have an impact:
In two elections, people voting in churches were more likely to support a conservative candidate and a ban on same-sex marriage, but not the restriction of eminent domain. A field experiment found that people completing questionnaires in a chapel awarded less money (relative to people in a secular building) to insurance claimants seeking compensation for abortion pills, but not to worker’s compensation claimants. A laboratory experiment found that people subliminally exposed to ecclesiastical images awarded less money (relative to people exposed to control images) to abortion pill claimants, but not to worker’s compensation claimants. Exposure to ecclesiastical images affected only Christians; non-Christians’ awards were unaffected by the prime. These findings show that polling locations can exert a powerful and precise influence on political attitudes and decision making.
Truth is, schools and churches are good convenient places to hold elections. But there is an impact that we perhaps ought to think about. Also, just another great example of how people are influenced by things outside their conscious awareness all the time. I’m guessing not 1 in 100 would admit to voting in a church had any impact on their vote.