Votes are influenced by friends, neighbors and groups, study says

Aug 01, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Neighbors' lawn signs, public opinion polls and even a conversation in the next restaurant booth can affect how people vote in an election, suggests a new University of California, Davis, study. But it all depends on how far away the election is.

“Research like this highlights the fact that we are social creatures,” said Alison Ledgerwood, assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis and author of the study. “We clearly use other people to help us make our decisions, but what this research shows is that we rely on different people’s opinions for near-future and distant-future events.”

Ledgerwood’s study — using both New York University and UC Davis student subjects in simulated votes and opinion surveys — found that when it comes to decisions about the distant future, peer group opinions carry a lot of weight.

“When thinking about an election that will occur next year, rather than tomorrow, or when voting by absentee ballot rather than in person at the voting booth, individuals may be especially likely to adopt whatever opinions seem to be endorsed by a majority of their group members,” Ledgerwood said.

But as an election nears, the views of individuals become more influential.

“Tuning into what the person sitting next to you happens to think about an issue is a great strategy for getting along in the current context,” she said.

The research suggests that people making calls to voters months ahead of time trying to influence a might embrace specific tactics: “You might want to mention polling results. You might want to say: Most people in your political party think this is a good candidate or a good issue,” Ledgerwood said.

However, polls announced the day or week before probably have little effect. “As we get closer to voting day, polls affect us less and less,” she said. “Meanwhile, what one other person happens to think might affect us more and more. The point is, we are always influenced by what other people think, but who influences us most is going to depend on timing.”

Ledgerwood’s article, “The Social Side of Abstraction: Psychological Distance Enhances Conformity to Group Norms” was co-authored by UC Davis graduate student Shannon Callahan and appears in the latest issue of Psychological Science.

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

More information: The article is available by clicking on “request” in the top right corner at: psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/Ledgerwood/PWT/index.cfm?Section=3

Related Stories

Voters overrate favorite candidates

Feb 23, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- If your political candidate of choice falls behind in the polls, will you lose faith in his ability to win? Probably not. A new study from Northwestern University suggests that people tend to believe that ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

17 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

20 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2012
The conventional wisdom up to this point has been that they were influenced by hair cream, aardvarks, egg whites, and moonbeams.

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...