Dear Dr. Hwang:
“The government shutdown sheds light on how important it is to research candidates before voting. Does psychology play a role in who we vote for?”
In the United States of America voting is often perceived as being a part of a democratic political system. A democracy invites citizens to vote for the best candidates they believe will uphold laws, fight for human rights and rotate leaders, free from oppressive variables.
However, the right to vote has not been given freely. Identified people from politically oppressed groups such as people of color and women, have undergone civil rights violations, which have excluded them from voting for way too long.
Psychology definitely plays a role in voting, to what extent is hard to quantify. Hopefully, before voting, people read and research information about potential candidates to vote for. Then, people are granted the responsibility to vote for individuals they feel will best meet the needs of the community which whom their candidates represent. A well-informed voter hopefully entertains multi-dimensional aspects of a candidate’s psychological make up.
Hopefully, a candidate is a person who is reflective, inclusive, fair minded, caring and civil. Sound bytes about candidates often overlook a candidate’s character. Some people evaluate voting history, political and professional experience and sometimes even perceived flaws.
No candidate is perfect. At the same time, people will likely examine how the candidate’s values line up with their own. People also review a candidate’s decision-making history, community contributions and integrity.
Polling data reveals reams upon reams of documents that imply why certain people supposedly vote for specific candidates. Pollsters work to find what’s referred to as a positive correlation.Unfortunately, some correlations implied such as, “Do some people vote for a person from a specific racial background,” covertly creates stereotypes or broad generalizations that are often untrue.
No person or resource can accurately depict why one human might vote for another, except the individual who casts the vote. Even then, individuals aren’t always sure why they cast certain votes themselves? All voting is subjective and draws from a broad range of experiences, variables, psychological processes and feelings.
To answer your question more specifically, psychology absolutely plays a role in voting. With regard to the government shutdown, I imagine this may sway votes in the future. Events that gain a lot of media coverage and impact us emotionally in intense areas of our lives have a way of influencing upcoming decisions. I’ve deducted that politics is to psychology, what psychology is to politics?
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology.
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