Habits and the Election Part I

Habits influence all of our behavior even which button we push when we enter the voting booth. For all of the brouhaha surrounding this year’s election, nothing has really changed about the process of selecting the most powerful person in the world. By this I mean, every four years the vast majority of voters cast their ballots based on a gut feeling.

Oh, if you ask them they will come up with a logical sounding answer, but the reality is that the real heavy lifting in candidate selection comes from the unconscious part of our brains. Pundits, columnists, and other self-important commentators might be dismayed to discover how little their opinions really matter. Research shows that voters make two evaluations of candidates; one rational, the other emotional. Tellingly, they vote based on emotion.

It is amusing to hear the rationalizations people come up with to justify their emotional choice, whether they are voting for McCain or Obama. And of course the media wants to hype the historic nature of this election because one of the candidates is of clearly mixed race. The reality is that race is simply a novelty. Obama is a young, good-looking charismatic candidate running against an elder statesman. The dynamic would be the same if Obama was white, Asian, or whatever admixture you can think of. While African-Americans feel justifiable pride in the prospect of a black president, his election can only be secured by a very broad appeal to voters of all ethnic backgrounds.

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