Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere

Voting Behavior

How do politicians use psychology in their campaigns?

Given the emotional influences on voting behavior, it is hardly surprising that a whole industry of political consultants struggles to figure out how to best package candidates to appeal to the voting public. In short, many campaigns try to influence voter response by shaping voters’ emotional reactions. One powerful way to do this is through associative conditioning. Politicians try to create either negative or positive associations with particular issues or candidates. This can be done through careful use of language, meticulously designed visual images, and intentional use of emotionally significant symbols. For example, the colors of the American flag grace almost every national campaign and, though it may be a cliché, politicians are frequently photographed holding babies. These images prod the voter to associate the candidate with patriotism and support of the family.


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