Fans in the booth

Next time you go to the polls, you may want to give some extra thought to why you plan to vote for a particular candidate. That goes double for those of you whose favorite football team won a big game the day before.

Wait, what?

A Stanford University study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that incumbents gain two percentage points when the election is held shortly after a home-team victory. The results of college football games should obviously have nothing to do with political elections, but it’s possible that voters are in a better mood following a win, and therefore more likely to vote for the candidate who’s already in office. The thinking could be: “Things are going well, might as well stick with this person.”

It’s a stretch, I know, but the researchers also found that college basketball games affected presidential approval ratings.

The benefit of knowing that an unrelated event such as a football game can impact important decisions like government elections is that hopefully something can be done about it. Peoples’ moods can’t be controlled, but as the researchers note, “making people more aware of the reasons for their current state of mind reduces the effect that irrelevant events have on their opinions.”

Awareness sounds like a wise goal: It doesn’t make much sense to remove the incumbent just because your team has a bad defense.

–Andrew Kahn

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