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pollstat“Subtle environmental cues can influence decisions on issues of real consequence,” write Jonah Berger and Marc Meredith, two doctoral students at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, and S. Christian Wheeler, a Stanford marketing professor, in a paper (summary) reported in July's SER. The “environmental cues” are surprising indeed: according to the authors, the polling places used by voters may influence their choices. One study showed voters in Arizona in 2000 were more likely to support a measure to increase the state sales tax, with the proceeds going to public education, if they voted in a school. Following up, the authors showed subjects images of a church, a school, or a generic building and asked them to “vote” on certain measures. Not only were the respondents more likely to support education measures if they had been shown pictures of schools, but they were also more likely to vote against stem-cell research if they had been shown pictures of churches. American polling places have usually been assigned by state officials on the basis of convenience; this research suggests they could become political battlegrounds in a whole new manner.

via The Economist
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