The Frontal Cortex

How Democrats Can Win

They should put more polling places in schools. According to scientists at Stanford, voters were significantly more likely to support an increased sales tax for education if they voted in a school. (Their data set was voting patterns in the 2000 Arizona election.) Voters were also significantly more likely to oppose a stem cell initiative if they voted in a church. This environmental effect persisted even when other variables (such as conservatives being more likely to vote in a religious institution) were controlled for. According to the researchers, our “contextual biases” are potent enough to affect even a moderately close election:

Why might something like polling location influence voting behavior? “Environmental cues, such as objects or places, can activate related constructs within individuals and influence the way they behave,” says Berger. “Voting in a school, for example, could activate the part of a person’s identity that cares about kids, or norms about taking care of the community. Similarly, voting in a church could activate norms of following church doctrine. Such effects may even occur outside an individual’s awareness.”


  1. #1 Timothy Chase
    August 14, 2006

    Secretary of State Ken Blackwell in Ohio knew this quite well in 2004. He made sure that predominantly Republican voting districts had plenty of voting machines (so that there was no waiting line), and in predominantly Democratic voting districts there was a severe shortage, resulting in people having to stand in line for as many as eleven hours. See the section devoted to Knox county below:,_Ohio

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