Research suggests that voters are likely to make their way to the polls when they have a dislike for one of the candidates. One would assume the opposite to be true, however, research over a 24 year period led by professor Jon A. Krosnick of Ohio State University shows that “people are more motivated by the threat of something bad than the opportunity for something good”. Even more intriguing is that voters actually seek to like these disliked candidates.
Conversely, if voters have a strong dislike for all candidates, they will not be very apt to vote. Similarly, if we have no real preference for any particular candidate, voters are equally likely to opt not to vote. Basically, voters are most likely to cast their vote when a strong like or dislike exists for a candidate.
Oddly enough, the research suggests that negative advertising actually works. Who would imagine that all the tactful mud slinging that goes on during an electoral campaign could actually entice us to vote one way or the other?
In addition, voters tend to approach candidates in which they know little about in the same way people tend to approach strangers. That is, by hoping that the experience will be a pleasant one. First impression appears to be the key to a successful campaign. This is important for politicians to know because the study implies that people rarely change their opinions after that first impression. This knowledge would really help their campaign strategy. Starting out with a bang seems to have a bigger impact than going out with one.
All in all, the most efficient way of swaying voters is to make a villain of the opponent. It seems that, for voters, it is easiest to cross a candidate off the ballot than to place an 'X' beside the most qualified.
The Psychology of Voting
The results are in and the voter behaviours of Mental Health Blog readers are as follows: