60-Second Science

Where You Vote May Affect How You Vote

Subjects randomly surveyed within view of a church gave more conservative responses than those surveyed within view of a secular school. Katherine Harmon reports

On election day, where do you vote? If it's in a church, you might be inclined to vote more conservatively than if you cast your ballot at a school or government building. That’s according to research published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. [Jordan P. LaBouff et al., "Differences in Attitudes Toward Outgroups in Religious and Nonreligious Contexts in a Multinational Sample: A Situational Context Priming Study"]

And the effect seems to hold, whether you’re Christian, Muslim or agnostic, progressive, independent or conservative.

The study found that when random people were surveyed in front of a church, they gave more socially and politically conservative responses than people surveyed while standing in front of a government building.

The shift in people's attitudes, the researchers suggest, was likely a result of visual priming—meaning that people who could see the religious building were, consciously or not, getting cues that influenced their response.

The surveys were conducted in Europe, so it's possible American voters might react differently. But the survey included subjects from more than 30 countries to try to minimize a particular national bias. So before you cast your vote this election year, think about whether your view is influencing your views.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]  

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