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What Influences Voter Behavior?

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Posted November 5, 2012

Although we’d like to believe that people determine how to vote based on relevant political issues, research has shown that countless subtle elements beyond just the candidate and party platform are at play in influencing voter decisions. Let’s revisit some of this research published by PLOS ONE over the years that address some of these influences.

Impressions based on candidate age and gender, as well as subconscious judgments of competency, approachability and attractiveness, are likely to have played a role in informing voters’ choices as long as democracy has been practiced. Several studies have explored these notions. Among them, an investigation into the effects of voter and candidate gender on voting behavior, exploring voter biases toward older candidates in times of conflict and whether Democrats and Republicans can be identified as such by their facial appearance alone!

More recent developments in the media’s coverage of debates have incorporated social elements in broadcasting and may be biasing audiences in new ways. The “worm”, seen above, is one such innovation; this continuous response measure presents real time data from undecided voters in a streaming line presented during live coverage of a debate. The research of Davis et al. demonstrates how easily these innovations can sway the opinions of viewers and urges more investigation into the impacts of this and other social media additions to coverage of debates.

These and other studies show how many factors may be influencing our choices in elections.

Source: PLOS EveryONE

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