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article imageStudy shows 'religious priming' influences political voting

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By Nancy Houser     Jan 20, 2012 in Politics
Waco - According to a recent press release, the Christian Baylor University of Texas has completed a study that shows if a person votes or completes a survey near or in a church location, they will usually be more politically conservative.
Religious priming is when voters are primed by a verbal or visual cue that is religious---a close environment when being polled or questioned, what building is in their line of vision, or where they are when voting---strongly influencing how they will vote.
A recent press release has reported that these same voters are also more negative toward non-Christians, as compared to people who vote or answer polls near government or non-Christian buildings. The new study involves individuals who were passing by churches in the Netherlands and England, not in the United States.
The Baylor study is just a small bit of growing evidence "that 'religious priming' can influence both religious and nonreligious people." Published online in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, the study reflects the differences in not only the voting polls, but also the Christians vs non-Christian people.
However, regardless of the location, the study is highly significant to upcoming voting. In a manner of speaking, "Where you vote influences how you vote," according to Newswise.
"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, in the press release.
According to 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."
In 2000, a study at Arizona's Stanford University invovling a school funding referendum showed voters at school polls were more likely to support a state tax increase than polls done in churches or community centers. The study results were published in the 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, with both studies raising questions about where important decisions are made.
"Interestingly, these more negative attitudes toward non-Christian groups were held by a very diverse — and largely non-Christian — sample," LaBouff said. "The only people who weren't viewed negatively were Christians. They were a non-factor."
According to the press release, passersby were asked to rate "outgroups" — those who were different from themselves in terms of culture and/or religion. People involved included the wealthy, the poor, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, homosexual men and women, Africans, Asians, Europeans and Arabs. Participants were asked to rate their feelings of "coolness" or "warmness" toward certain groups on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the warmest. All the structures are located along major pedestrian paths.
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Following the same theme but in a different direction, in March of 2011, an article was written "THE POLLING PLACE PRIMING (PPP) EFFECT: IS VOTING IN CHURCHES (OR ANYWHERE ELSE) UNCONSTITUTIONAL?" by Jeremy A. Blumenthal and Terry L. Turnipseed.
As the Author walked into the room to vote, he noticed several crosses, bibles, hymnals, pulpits, and religious artifacts scattered about. After waiting in line - looking around all the time while waiting with nothing else to do - he finally walked into the polling booth to pull a variety of levers, some for candidates and some for ballot measures. Was he affected by his surroundings? He did not think so, but who knows.
Studies are showing that the Author had just voted after "walking through a church parking lot, an ornate church door, multiple religious symbols, and into a voting room containing numerous religious artifacts." He said he was not affected, but how could he not? The difference lies in whether the awareness is on a conscious vs unconscious level that would affect his vote, a well-documented psychological effect referred to as "religious priming."
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