The more you fear death, the more likely you'll vote Republican
A little dated but still relevant article:
...Molly Maxfield conducted an experiment that will appear in the December 2004 issue of Psychological Science, in which students were asked to think about their own death or a control topic and then read campaign statements purportedly written by three political candidates in an upcoming gubernatorial election. The candidates varied in leadership style. The charismatic leader stated: "You are not just an ordinary citizen, you are part of a special state and a special nation." The task-oriented leader stated: "I can accomplish all the goals that I set out to do. I am very careful in laying out a detailed blueprint of what needs to be done so that there is no ambiguity." The relationship-oriented leader stated: "I encourage all citizens to take an active role in improving their state. I know that each individual can make a difference."
After reading these statements, participants selected the candidate they would vote for in an election. Results were striking. After thinking about a control topic, only four of 95 participants voted for the charismatic candidate, with the rest of the votes split evenly between the task and relationship oriented leaders. However, following a reminder of death, there was almost an 800 percent increase in votes for the charismatic leader (31); votes for the task-oriented leader were unaffected, but the relationship-oriented leader's votes significantly declined...
Do reminders of mortality increase the appeal of such a leader? Studies published in the September 2004 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggest that they do. In Study 1, a mortality salience induction dramatically increased support for President Bush and his policies in Iraq. In Study 2, subliminal reminders of 9/11 or the World Trade Center increased the accessibility of implicit thoughts of death; for Americans then, even non-conscious intimations of the events of 9/11 arouse concerns about mortality. Accordingly, in Study 3 participants were asked to think about death, the events of 9/11, or a benign control topic; both mortality and 9/11 salience produced substantial increases in support for President Bush among liberal as well as conservative participants. Finally, in Study 4, whereas participants rated John Kerry more favorably than George Bush after thinking about being in intense pain, after a reminder of death, evaluations of Bush increased and Kerry decreased, such that Bush was more favorably evaluated than Kerry...
it is a matter of public record that President Bush's re-election campaign has been carefully crafted to emphasize the war on terrorism and domestic security, the strategic use of fear to advance political agendas has a long history in American politics (all politics for that matter) and is by no means confined to the Republican Party.
However, the fact that a subtle, brief manipulation of psychological conditions (asking people to think about their own death or the events of 9/11) produced such striking differences in political preferences (for charismatic leaders in general and President Bush in particular) suggests that close elections could be decided as a result of non-rational terror management concerns. We'd like to think that Americans across the political spectrum would agree that this is antithetical to the democratic ideal that voting behavior should be the result of rational choice based on an informed understanding of the relevant issues. National elections are no guarantee against totalitarian outcomes.The best antidote to this problem may be to monitor and take pains to resist any efforts by candidates to capitalize on fear-mongering.
I think this points out why the Republicans continue to use terror threats & fear mongering to win support. ( Is there anyone left who truly believes all of the "orange alerts" before the election weren't greatly exaggerated and over dramaticized to trump up support for the sitting president? )
There will be a tipping point, when people will realize that the Republicans agenda has only made us less safe, that American citizens have been used and manipulated. Hopefully, a strong democratic leader will be charismatic enough to expose the unethical fear mongering of the other party.
Tags:[terrorism], [Bush], [elections]