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10 Psychological Tricks That Politicians Use to Manipulate Votes





There’s nothing in this world that’s as dirty as politics. Mud-slinging, in particular, is used to unravel an opponent’s darkest, deepest secrets. But while they’re loathed for the way they earned their thrones, people can’t sometimes help but be fascinated with this subject. As any career in this world, these politicians also have their own bag of tricks to offer.

In reality, these politicians actually use psychology to help them in their political careers. For sure, you’ll be surprised with the way they utilize this branch of science to manipulate and/or acquire votes. Below are 10 ways politicians do it.

#10. Telling People About High Turnout

In election, most people are told that it’s going to be a low turnout. It’s believed that by doing so they’ll likely to head to the polls, as their respective votes will “count more.” But actually, it’s the other way around. Low turnout will only depress the so-called “get-out-to-vote” efforts. It’s why researchers suggest that high turnout is more than likely to motivate people to go to the polls instead of low turnout. This is quite effective, most especially to occasional voters. Basically, people are social beings, allowing them to influence other people’s behavior. Hence the term “bandwagon effect.”

#9. Triggering Ideas of Disease and Disgust

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Believe it or not, using hand sanitizer can actually make one more conservative. In a study from Cornell University, students are discovered to answer questions more conservatively whenever they’re near a bottle of hand sanitizer. Weird, right? Well, it’s also true in politics. Candidates use this to actually win the favor of the voters. Take for example Carl Paladino, a conservative candidate (who ran for governor) in New York. He used campaign leaflets that smelled garbage. According to researchers, using a certain foul odor can make people decide oppositely. For instance, making a room smell bad will make people likely to oppose same-sex marriage. Disgust is a very strong emotion-kicker that can influence a person’s ability to decide.

#8. Public Shaming

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Sometime in 2017, an infamous letter arrived in voters’ mailboxes. It says, “What if your friends, your neighbors, and your community knew whether or not you voted?” The letter increased the turnout by at least 4.5 percent and it even grew the moment several letters, with the same concept, were released. The percentage was enough to swing even the closest of election.

#7. The Framing Effect

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The Framing Effect refers to a cognitive bias, something that leads people to make choices. And although these choices may vary based on the situation, it’ll still depend on how the information is relayed or presented. And yes, this strategy is widely used in politics – every single time. In political campaigns, these are slogans with “Is it pro-life” or “Is it pro-abortion?” These phrases, albeit simple, are actually significant than what people believe.

#6. Asking If One Needs a Babysitter

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Researchers found an interesting discovery in an experiment they did during the 2008 democratic presidential primary election. They found out that phone calls coming from volunteers to potential voters were quite more effective when voters were asked to discuss logistical details about their voting plans.

Volunteers were tasked to ask this:

Did the voter intend to head to the polls before or after work? Would they walk or drive there? Would they take their kids or leave them with a babysitter?”

These calls proved to be more than twice as effective as the common scripts, the ones that ask people if whether or not they intend to vote.

Professor Todd Rogers from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government was quoted saying:

This shows that cognitive planning and mechanical logistics, not just motivation, are part of the voting decision.”

#5. A Promise/Threat to Follow Up With Voters After Election

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A 2015 study had two participants split into two groups. The first one received letters that encouraged them to vote, while the other received the same letter but with a significant twist. It included a box that said, “We may call you after the election to talk about your voting experience.” It turned out that letters with a follow-up note were more than three times effective as the standard letters. They call this the “reputational concern,” which is basically the idea of people likely to do things whenever their actions are made observable to others. To simply put it, people are somehow afraid of being called nonvoters.

#4. The Fear of Missing Out

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In September of 2012, former US president Barrack Obama and his campaign staff sent emails to their supporters. The emails contained information about how many of the recipients’ fellow citizens share the same first names, and these were the ones used to register in voting. Basically, this particular campaign capitalize on the idea that an individual is more likely to act upon something once he/she thinks that people like him/her act the same way. In layman’s term, it’s called peer pressure.

#3. Using Nouns Instead of Verbs

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Research suggests that a person is likely to head to the polls if and only if he views voting as a noble “aspect” of his/her character. And one way to deliver this is through using nouns instead of verbs. The study used two groups of people, with each asked by a certain question. The first group was asked, “How important is it to you to be a voter in the upcoming election?” The second group, on the other hand, was asked, “How important is it to you to vote in the upcoming election?” As you can see, the second question used the term “voting,” which is a verb. Apparently, using the noun “voter” reportedly increased the interest of voters to actually vote.

#2. Making Pinky Promise

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Remember the time when you were a kid and your parents or friends promise you about something? It might be a toy or a book, but either way, it got you interested. This is the same logic that politicians use to manipulate votes. According to Listverse, it’s about getting someone to make a commitment and then following up with a move to make that person stick to that commitment. In the election, politicians usually send vivid reminders through placards or signage, reminding voters of their promises.

#1. Negativity Bias

Sure, you might be among the people who hate attack cards or slogans. But no matter how much you hate them, you can’t deny the fact that they actually work. This is what psychologists call “negativity bias.” Human beings have this tendency to remember something negative and allow it to generate negative emotions. It’s why most people are usually remembered for their bad traits instead of the good things they did.

A well-known political science professor at Stanford University named Jon Krosnick explains,

If you dislike at least one of the two candidates, then you really are motivated to participate. So, in other words, it’s really disliking a candidate that motivates turnout.”

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