Contextual priming: Where people vote affects how they vote

Contextual priming: Where people vote affects how they vote

By
Jonah Berger, Marc Meredith, S. Christian Wheeler
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. July
1, 2008, Vol. 105, Issue 26, Pages 8846–8849

American voters are assigned to vote at a particular polling location (e.g., a church, school, etc.). We show these assigned polling locations can influence how people vote. Analysis of a recent general election demonstrates that people who were assigned to vote in schools were more likely to support a school funding initiative. This effect persisted even when controlling for voters’ political views, demographics, and unobservable characteristics of individuals living near schools. A follow-up experiment using random assignment suggests that priming underlies these effects, and that they can occur outside of conscious awareness. These findings underscore the subtle power of situational context to shape important real-world decisions.