There are a zillion studies about why and how people vote that are depressing, because they reveal just how arbitrary our choices can be. How you vote is affected by where your polling place is, the time of day when you vote, what people said to you in the days leading up to the election, and of course your cultural background and prejudices. Then there are scientific studies that come up with absolutely wackadoodle theories for why you voted the way you did. Here are six of our favorites.
Horny Women Vote for Democrats
In a recent study, business professor Kristina Durante claimed she found evidence that women vote differently depending on where they are in their ovulation cycles. CNN reported on the study in an article that has since been removed due to the volume of complaints:
The researchers found that during the fertile time of the month, when levels of the hormone estrogen are high, single women appeared more likely to vote for Obama and committed women appeared more likely to vote for Romney, by a margin of at least 20%, Durante said. This seems to be the driver behind the researchers' overall observation that single women were inclined toward Obama and committed women leaned toward Romney.
Here's how Durante explains this: When women are ovulating, they "feel sexier," and therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality. Married women have the same hormones firing, but tend to take the opposite viewpoint on these issues, she says.
"I think they're overcompensating for the increase of the hormones motivating them to have sex with other men," she said. It's a way of convincing themselves that they're not the type to give in to such sexual urges, she said.
Happy Sports Fans Vote for Incumbents
A recent study suggests that when a local college team wins a match within two weeks before an election, people tend to vote more often for the incumbent candidate. But why? According to the Washington Post:
The results suggest that the emotional state of voters is an important component in understanding their behavior, says Stanford professor Neil Malhotra, one of the study's authors. If they feel good, that can translate into how they vote. And if they feel good when they vote, they generally reward the incumbent, the embodiment of the status quo, he says.
So happy sports fans love the status quo, but horny women love liberals. It's all making sense now.
People Vote For the Same Reasons They Buy Designer Jeans
Writes Amihai Glazer in Theory and Decision:
Important decisions - war, peace, civil rights - are not made on the basis of considered judgment by the citizens. Instead, citizens realize that their votes will not matter and they therefore do not vote to affect policy. Voters view politics as a game or entertainment; it is only one of many ways to impress one's friends or associates, and fulfills the same function for many voters that designer jeans do.
Not only is this a terribly snotty conclusion, but it's obviously untrue. If people really voted for the same reasons they participate in games or entertainment, the U.S. presidential election would have much better turnout.
Why Do People Vote? Because They Are Registered
That is the title of this study, and its main finding. It's hard to argue with this. Good job, everybody. Yeah.
People Voted for Bush in 2004 Because He Had a Manly Face
There's nothing better than an evolutionary psychology study of voting. Case in point: this article about how people vote based on the manliness or femininity of a candidate's face. A group of U.K. biologists concluded that people voted for manly faces in times of war and ladylike faces during times of peace. Bush won, despite being rated uglier than Kerry, because voters unconsciously believed that his manly face meant he could deal with war. My favorite part is when the researchers say this could actually be an adaptive behavior on the part of voters. Because yeah — voting based on gender stereotypes and how people look is a GREAT plan if you want your species to keep surviving.
Old People Vote Out of Habit
Researcher Achim Gorres notes that older people turn out to vote in larger numbers than younger ones throughout most of the world. But why is that? Are they wiser? Possibly. Are they more politically engaged? That's also possible. But most likely, he concludes, they're just in the habit of voting. The older you are, the more ingrained the voting habit is. Hey old people — your choice to vote is just like your deli orders. You always do the same thing!
There are hundreds more crappy voting studies just like these. Tell us about your favorites in comments. One thing I'd really like to find are some studies from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries trying to justify why blacks and women shouldn't vote based on humina humina humina.