Thinking about death may have affected whether someone voted for George Bush or John Kerry for president. Last February nine psychologists put 74 students at Rutgers University through a mock exercise intended to unveil bias based on fear. Participants who had been asked to think about death or the events of September 11 were more likely to later respond favorably to a passage praising Bush's actions in the war against terrorism than those who responded after being asked to think about an upcoming school exam.
The findings support terror management theory, the idea that the conflict between one's biological instinct for survival and psychological realization of possible death makes one seek a source of immortality within society. Following this theory, the psychologists proposed that Bush might have been viewed favorably because the participants saw him as a leader who could be "a protective shield against death, armed with high-tech weaponry and patriotic rhetoric."
This article was originally published with the title Voters Fear Death.