Voting Influence

  by  |  June 23rd, 2008  |  Published in All, Brain & Psychology

 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 

Interviewee: Jonah Berger, Wharton School
Length: 1 min 15 sec
Produced by Jack Penland
Edited by James Eagan and Chris Bergendorff
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc., with additional footage
courtesy ABC News.

[If you cannot see the above You Tube video, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Researchers have discovered that where you vote can influence how you vote. They found that images that surround you, what consumer researchers call “cues,” could influence your decisions.

Subtle Messages

One of the best things about Election Day is that the ads stop. It’s time to vote.

But what if where you vote — a school, a church or a public building — could influence how you vote?

Those who study marketing say images we’re exposed to act like “cues,” nudging us toward one product or another. However, it happens only when we haven’t made up our minds.

Jonah Berger has studied this. He’s an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Management at the University of Pennsylvania. He turned his attention to elections, wondering, “Might you vote differently if you happen to vote at a church, for instance, rather than a school?”

He’s found an election where just that appears to have happened, and confirmed the response with a controlled test using 327 volunteers.
He and his team viewed precinct-by-precinct results of a school financing election in Arizona in 2000. Berger says, “People who were assigned to vote in schools were more likely to support the sales tax to fund education if they happened to be assigned to vote in schools.”

The study’s showed the following “yes” votes for the tax:
Overall votes 53.99%
Votes in schools 56.02%

But might there be a reason for this difference, such as people who have kids live near schools because that’s important to them, so when they vote there, it’s just a natural bias toward schools?

Berger and fellow author Marc Meredith of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business recognized that there are other potential factors that might drive such a difference and engaged in additional analysis of the data that showed this wasn’t the case. They also created a controlled test that took the whole bias question out of the equation.

They gave people different images and asked them to rate how bright the images were. Berger says that wasn’t what they were really interested in– they were instead interested in the “content of those images” because some people were exposed to many more school images than the others got.

Berger says, “Then, in the context of an unrelated study, we asked them to cast votes on a number of initiatives, including the initiative from Arizona.” What they found, says Berger, was that just seeing the school-related images “increased the chance that people said they would support an education funding initiative.”

Berger cautions that this research does not show that where you vote can change a decision you’ve already made, emphasizing that this impacts people “who aren’t sure, who are on the margin.”

He illustrates this with a moment when space exploration influenced candy bar sales. He says when NASA landed twin rovers on Mars and it was in the news, “people were choosing Mars bars over other types of candy bars.” Again, people with specific preferences wouldn’t be affected, but for the “many people (who) may be indifferent then the cues in the environment could have a much larger effect.”

The researchers are not suggesting that schools be abandoned as polling sites — because all buildings will have cues that unconsciously impact voters — but that people take steps to look for these cues and try to minimize their impact.

Berger says future research is needed to determine whether this extends to other types of ballot measures, including candidates.

This research was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition for the week of June 23, 2008 and was funded by The Stanford Graduate School of Business.

 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 


  1. Vote for You! | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    September 25th, 2008 at 12:36 pm (#)

    [...] Voting Influence06.23.08 [...]

  2. Threat and Politics: Are Political Views Rooted in Biology? | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    October 31st, 2008 at 1:37 pm (#)

    [...] Election Faces 11.05.07 [...]

  3. stock prices by date download says:

    April 25th, 2013 at 5:00 am (#)

    Whats up! I simply would like to give an enormous thumbs
    up for the good info you could have right here on this post.
    I will likely be coming back to your blog for extra soon.

  4. financial accounting courses online says:

    May 9th, 2013 at 7:28 pm (#)

    Hiya! I just wish to give a huge thumbs up for the good information you’ve
    gotten right here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for
    extra soon.

  5. says:

    May 16th, 2013 at 11:17 pm (#)

    Terrific article! That is the kind of information that are supposed to be
    shared around the internet. Shame on the search engines for
    not positioning this publish higher! Come on over and talk over with my site .
    Thank you =)

  6. misspelled ebay items says:

    May 30th, 2013 at 7:22 pm (#)

    Asking questions are actually nice thing if you are not understanding anything entirely,
    but this post offers pleasant understanding yet.

  7. Leave a comment says:

    June 5th, 2013 at 4:00 am (#)

    Hi there I am so delighted I found your web site, I really
    found you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a remarkable post and a all round
    thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please
    do keep up the great jo.

  8. harvard free online courses says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 9:08 pm (#)

    Brilliant labor! This really is the type of
    info that should end up being distributed surrounding the web.
    Waste on the search engines for not ranking this particular
    blog post upper! Come on over and discuss with my website .

    Best wishes =)

  9. Kathaleen says:

    October 2nd, 2014 at 9:33 am (#)

    I was able to find good information from your blog posts.

    Review my web-site soulcraft 2 cheats – Kathaleen

  10. accountancy company says:

    October 23rd, 2014 at 2:27 pm (#)

    s one thing to have a fancy degree in business and another to have practical experience
    running a small business. And, finally, describe the impact of the
    problem on the lives of those affected. But the desired output cannot be reached if
    there is complete automation.

  11. iPhone 6 plus phone cases says:

    November 26th, 2014 at 1:56 am (#)

    It gave Apple, and its developer partners, time to prepare for its public release. Of course, app issues and other iOS issues have a funny habit of creeping up when you least expect it so I’m not in the clear just yet.

  12. 85200000 says:

    January 3rd, 2015 at 9:15 pm (#)

  13. Fake Yeezy Boost 350 says:

    May 26th, 2017 at 12:45 am (#)

    I have a streetwear background and worked in Adidas Originals footwear, so this Kith collaboration felt like a natural extension of how we’ve been looking at soccer and how it’s valued off [the field] and in cities now.

Leave a Response


Clicky Web Analytics