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Sunday, September 18, 2016
Fly those American Flags Republicans if you want to win...
Did you notice how dark the stage was at the Democrat convention? Like something out of a Star Wars movie... a shade of grey with no patriotic colors to it. Well it turns out that just seeing the American Flag causes people to vote Republican and the effect lasts up to eight months!
As a visitor to the USA, one sometimes gets the feeling that it’s hard to move or look around without seeing a flag. They are seemingly everywhere, an omnipresent reminder of national identity. But the star-spangled banner is more than a symbol; it can also influence minds in unexpected ways.Travis Carter from the University of Chicago has found that when people think about voting decisions, the mere sight of the American flag can subtly shift their political views… towards Republicanism. It’s an effect that holds in both Democrats and Republicans, it affects actual votes, and it lasts for at least 8 months.
In the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election, Carter recruited a group of around 200 volunteers and asked them about their political views. A month or so later, he split them into two groups that were comparable in terms of their political beliefs, voting intentions and other variables. Both groups rated how likely they were to vote for either the Democrat Barack Obama or the Republican John McCain on an online questionnaire. The questionnaires were identical except for one small detail – in the top left corner of the screen, one group saw a small American flag and the other saw nothing.
That tiny difference was enough to swing their voting preferences. Carter found that the volunteers who saw the tiny flag became more likely to vote for McCain than Obama (relative to their answers at the start of the experiment). They claimed to feel more positive towards the Republicans and even when Carter tested their unconscious atittudes, a small Republican bias still came through.
After the election, Carter contacted the volunteers again and asked them who they actually voted for. He found that those who saw the flag were less likely to have voted for Obama than those who didn’t (73% versus 84%). They were also more likely to think that the media were unduly harsh in their treatment of McCain. Remember that there were no differences in the political leanings of the two groups before one of them saw the flag-bearing questionnaire.
Finally, in July 2009, Carter caught up with his volunteers one last time. Even though eight months had passed since half of them saw the tiny flags on-screen, these recruits still showed some Republican bias. They were less happy about Obama’s job performance than their peers, less warm about other liberal leaders, and even held slightly more conservative views. (Bear in mind that in this final round, only a third of the original sample answered Carter’s call; however, both the flag and no-flag groups were equally represented).
The effect of Carter’s simple questionnaire is stark in both its size and duration He writes, “A single exposure to an unobtrusive American flag shifted participants’ voting intentions, voting behaviour, attitudes, and beliefs toward the Republican end of the ideological spectrum.“ This was true whether the volunteers identified as liberal or conservative – people from both ends of the spectrum shifted towards Republicanism.
A more recent article from 2016 explains why Democrat candidates should NEVER put a flag in their ads...
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate will probably get some bad advice as the general election campaign begins. Some adviser will insist her advertisements should prominently feature the American flag, to neutralize any impression she is less than patriotic.
Don't do it, Hillary. It'll just win votes for your Republican opponent.
So suggests some newly published research, which confirms and refines a2011 study that found simply seeing the stars and stripes nudges voters toward the GOP. This new paper reports that dynamic is restricted to a subset of Americans — but for them, it occurs even when the flag is used to promote a Democratic candidate.
"We find that flag imagery has subtle pro-Republican effects on vote choice, regardless of [its] source," write political scientists Nathan Kalmoeof Monmouth College and Kimberly Gross of George Washington University. In contrast, they add, "Democrats find no advantage from using the flag."
In the journal Political Psychology, Kalmoe and Gross describe three experiments that lead to this conclusion. All were conducted online, and had similar structures.
After giving information about themselves, including their level of patriotism, political knowledge, and "attitudes towards racial, ethnic, and religious groups," participants in the first two experiments (conducted in the fall of 2012) read information about the two major-party presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama (who was running for re-election) and Republican Mitt Romney. They then indicated who they planned to support.
For the third experiment, conducted the following year, participants similarly evaluated possible 2016 candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, afterwards noting which of the men they preferred.
"Each candidate's photo was embedded at the top of the survey page individually evaluating them," the researchers write. For some participants, an American flag was placed in the background of the photo; for others, it was absent.
Combining the results of all three experiments, "we find flag exposure weakly but consistently benefits Republican candidates," the researchers write. "Not only do flags tend to benefit Republican candidates — this is so even when flags appear with Democrats."
Further analysis of the data revealed this "flag effect" is largely confined to "voters who are more patriotic, who see whites more favorably than blacks, and who identify more strongly as Republicans."
"Rather than diminishing the role of race by signaling shared values," they add, "the American flag amplifies the impact of racial attitudes in vote choice."