(WACO, Texas) — A new study adds to growing evidence that where you vote might affect how you vote.
When asked about gun laws, the death penalty and climate change, people responded with more conservative views if a church was nearby, the study found.
“One of most common polling places in the United States is a church,” said Jordan LaBouff, a psychology lecturer at the University of Maine and lead author of the study published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. “This study definitely demonstrates it can change attitudes. The extent to which those attitudes change how people behave at the ballot box is the next question.”
LaBouff and colleagues from Baylor University surveyed 99 people outside either religious or nonreligious landmarks in London and Maastricht, Netherlands. Regardless of their religious views, people surveyed near a church responded with more conservative views on a range of political issues, from border patrol to gay marriage.
It’s still unclear whether polling location can influence the outcome of a vote, but LaBouff said it’s worth investigating.
“I don’t think we can definitely say these potential changes in attitudes are threatening the validity of the electoral process, but in some cases you’re talking about a fraction of a percent,” he said. “Any time decisions are being made — particularly if they’re decisions that relate to social issues and national policy — we should pay attention to the context in which those decisions are made.”
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