January 19, 2012

Political stance: It's all about location?

Whether one leans politically conservative or liberal, on a particular issue, may be influenced in part by how close the person is to either a church or a government building, respectively.

So says a Baylor study:
 Passersby who stopped to answer surveys taken next to churches in the Netherlands and England reported themselves as more politically conservative and more negative toward non-Christians than did people questioned within sight of government buildings — a finding that may be significant when it comes to voting, according to a Baylor University study.

The study, published online in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, adds to a growing body of evidence that religious “priming” can influence both religious and nonreligious people, Baylor researchers said. Priming occurs when a stimulus such as a verbal or a visual cue — for example, the buildings that were in participants’ line of vision during questioning — influences a response.

The findings are significant in that churches and other buildings affiliated with a religious group are among the most common polling places, said psychologist Jordan LaBouff, Ph.D., lead author for the Baylor study.

“The important finding here is that people near a religious building reported slightly but significantly more conservative social and political attitudes than similar people near a government building,” said co-author Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. “In a close election, the place where people vote — a school, a church, a government building — could affect the outcome . For example, a higher percentage of people voting in a church instead of a school might vote for a conservative candidate or proposition.”

He noted that a Stanford University study of an Arizona school funding referendum in 2000 showed that voters polled in schools were more likely to support a state tax increase than were those polled in churches or community centers. That study was published in 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Interesting, to say the least.

The study appears carefully done and controlled, and not the first of its kind. Obviously, it's not likely that a lot of non-church AND non-government building polling places could be found, if we stopped using both, so that's not likely.

However, pushing for or against a certain candidate, referendum issue, etc.? That's different. Private individuals and groups advocating for or against ballot items or candidates probably have some serious food for thought here.

Not that George Lakoff is all right, but this is a bit of "framing."

No comments: