Daily Archives: June 24, 2008

Your polling place impacts your voting decisions

ABC News reports on new research which suggests that the place where one casts a vote plays a role in how one votes:

A new study suggests that where people vote may affect how they vote.

“Seemingly innocuous factors can influence behavior,” said Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the study’s lead author. “There is a connection between location and the thing people are voting on.”

Berger examined results from the 2000 Arizona general election and found that, even after controlling for location and political preferences, people who voted in schools were 2 percent more likely to support raising the state sales tax to increase education spending.

Berger’s experimental data supported the results of the analysis. He found that, when people were exposed to images of schools, including lockers and classrooms, they were more likely to vote for a hypothetical tax to fund public schools, than people who were exposed to less evocative images, such as office buildings.


The authors’ own abstract of their study:

American voters are assigned to vote at a particular polling location (e.g., a church, school, etc.). We show these assigned polling locations can influence how people vote. Analysis of a recent general election demonstrates that people who were assigned to vote in schools were more likely to support a school funding initiative. This effect persisted even when controlling for voters’ political views, demographics, and unobservable characteristics of individuals living near schools. A follow-up experiment using random assignment suggests that priming underlies these effects, and that they can occur outside of conscious awareness. These findings underscore the subtle power of situational context to shape important real-world decisions.


This study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.