This article is from the In-Depth Report Election 2012: Grading Obama and Romney on Science
60-Second Science

Voting Affected by Implicit Beliefs

People's deeply held beliefs may contradict what they think they believe--and can affect the choices they make in the voting booth. Steve Mirsky reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Still lots of undecided voters out there, with less than a week to go before election day. But many of these undecideds may already have made their choice. Even though they themselves won’t learn what it is til they actually pull the lever on November 4th.

Hundreds of studies find that people’s deeply ingrained implicit beliefs can contradict what they say they believe, even what they think they believe. And a recent Italian study found that implicit beliefs strongly predicted voting behavior.

Harvard researcher Mahzarin Banaji runs Project Implicit, which gauges people’s implicit beliefs. One part of the project looks at Obama versus McCain. The study does not use a representative sample. Anybody can take part via a Web site, so study subjects are self-selected. But the findings are still interesting. Self-described independents who take the test actually lean toward Obama. And the test shows that many undecideds who say they’re inclined toward Obama are implicitly more sympathetic to McCain.

You can find out more about your implicit beliefs by taking the Implicit Association Test at

—Steve Mirsky 

60-Second Science is a daily podcast. Subscribe to this Podcast: RSS | iTunes 

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription
as low as $9.99

Subscribe Now! >


Email this Article