#3. The Order the Names Are Listed In
Let's face it, you probably don't know enough about every name on the ballot to make an educated vote. Sure, the position of city comptroller is probably really important, but your favorite news channel didn't tell you how to vote on that one. The logical thing to do would be to simply skip that part of the ballot but of course you won't. You're just going to randomly pick someone. And the chances are that person will be one of the first people listed.
It's OK. We're honestly impressed you made it out of your comfy chair.
The reason comes down to the fact that we as humans just accept what we see or experience first. If you're taste-testing two sodas, you're more likely to think the first one tastes better. And on a ballot, you're more likely to let the guy listed first run the public schools you send your kids to.
Stanford researchers looked at election results over 10 years and found that coming first on the ballot increased a candidate's vote total by an average of 2 percent. And it's not just the unimportant elections. Their research suggested that as many as nine congressional races would have gone the other way if the second-place candidate had been listed above the guy who is currently a member of Congress.
It's such a well known problem that some states randomize the ballot order to counteract this effect. For instance, in the 2000 presidential election, California randomized the order based on district, so everyone in Sacramento might have seen George W. Bush's name last, while everyone in San Francisco might have seen him first. Of course, at the presidential level, that's more than a little insulting. We might vote for Aaron A. Aaronson as the best choice for village idiot, but it's not like it's going to sway who we choose to run the whole freaking country, right?
Actually, Bush got 9 percent more votes in districts where he was listed first than in the assembly districts where he was listed last. In Florida, which determined the election by an incredibly small margin, Bush was listed first every time. If Florida had mixed the districts like California does, it's almost certain that Gore would have won. That's the presidency of the United States determined by the fact that we don't have the patience to read past the first two-syllable name. Regardless of how you feel about how things turned out, you've got to admit that it's pretty ballsy of anyone on this side of the equation to be calling him retarded.
Besides, they almost never let retarded people fly fighter jets.
#2. The Weather
There's an old saying that Republicans should pray for rain on Election Day. People from low-income areas have to walk or take public transportation to get to the polls. When it rains, a rich guy can just put on his J. Crew rain slicker and galoshes, throw his SUV in four-wheel drive and pay a poor person to hold an umbrella over his head while he waits in line.
A Rich Person, circa any point in history.
A group of political scientists published a paper in which they analyzed election results by district from 1948 on and found that weather played a statistically significant role in election results. How significant? Well, if Nov. 2, 1960, hadn't been an uncommonly clear day across the country, John F. Kennedy might still be alive today.
But bad weather isn't always good news for Republicans. When things go wrong, it's common for people to blame the government for things that even the most jaded libertarian would have to agree probably aren't the government's fault. For decades scientists have been studying the possibility that people blame those in power for natural disasters.
They unveiled their research at the annual, "Just How Stupid Are People, Anyway?" convention in Zurich.
Even though we're pretty sure no government in the world is yet capable of controlling the weather (although they are working on it), it turns out that voters tend to blame the incumbent candidate for any recent earthquakes, floods or hurricanes and are more likely to elect the opponent. It doesn't matter if the candidate does a good job of supplying aid and other support after the hurricane or flood. In our crazy minds, the whole thing is his fault to begin with.
WHY DOES IT RAIN, PRESIDENT HUSSEIN?!
While studies haven't shown this to be as statistically significant as the other items on this list, consider the votes for George W. Bush in Florida in the 2004 election. The state had been hit with four consecutive hurricanes before November, and those areas hit hardest were less likely to vote for his re-election, even if they were staunchly conservative areas that had voted for him four years earlier.
#1. Your Genes
If being in the same room as a Jesus statue is enough to make a liberal person vote like a conservative, you'd think the decision to vote or stay home would be just as haphazard and easy to influence. Maybe there's a politically active girl you're trying to impress. Maybe you happened to catch Air Force One on TNT. There's no one reason any one of us votes, right?
"The bars are closed anyway, might as well go vote."
Actually, the question of why we vote has been the subject of scientific research for years since it basically contradicts everything social scientists have learned about typical human behavior. Think about it. You know how they say the lottery is a tax on people who don't understand math? Well, the same could be said about the process of voting, since it is mathematically impossible for your single, solitary vote to swing the election.
Social scientists have tried to explain people's irrational decision to vote with everything from age to gender to race. None of it made a difference. No matter how many times P. Diddy threatened to kill them, some people just weren't going to the polls, and others seemed, in the words of political scientist Jay Fowler, "programmed to keep voting."
That's when Fowler got the idea to see if these people really were programmed -- if whether or not we vote is in fact hard-coded into our DNA. Various large-scale studies of twins in America and Australia found that identical twins were more likely to share voting behavior than fraternal twins. The correlation was so overwhelming that the researchers concluded that genes are the most important factor in determining whether you vote.
So whether you decide to vote has nothing to do with your feelings on the war your country's involved in, or the time the president killed your father in front of you. A randomly selected group of humanity is programmed to vote, and if you're not one of them, you're going to be lazy and stay home. Although if you're in the lazy part of the population, we guess you shouldn't be too jealous. They're just going to vote for the fat guy anyway.
For more depressing political trends, check out 8 Insane Ways Parents Are Politically Brainwashing Children. Or, learn the tricks The Man doesn't want you to know about in 6 Brainwashing Techniques They're Using On You Right Now.
And stop by Linkstorm to find out where you can purchase a hairy toe online.
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