Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Voting while under the influence

One indication of why our political system is as screwed up as it is comes from researcher Neil Malhotra of Stanford University:

Malhotra and his team looked at how political candidates fared in 62 US county elections between 1964 and 2008, and compared that with the local college American football team’s results. They found that in years when the team won in the two weeks prior to election day, the incumbent or their party received 1.6 per cent more of the votes than in years when the team lost (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1007420107).

It’s not that football has a direct effect on its own, of course — that’d be, um, stupid. What matters, according to Mr Malhotra, it that we’re voting with our guts, our moods, and not with our brains:

A bad mood draws us to change, and a good mood to the status quo, regardless of what causes that mood, says Malhotra.

It’s not news that when we vote, many of us choose for the wrong reasons. Instead of choosing based on the candidate’s intelligence, platform, and suitability for the job we’re entrusting her to, many vote according to religious, sociological, or ethnic biases. We’ve known this.

But now it’s clear that something as trivial as whether the local college has a winning team right now can be the deciding factor.

Remember: friends don’t let friends vote while they’re high on football.

1 comment:

WM Irwin said...

Wow. I carefully weigh the issues and who supports my positions long before any election. And my one vote gets totally wiped out, based on how a sports teams fares?