A new psychology study finds (subscription required) that viewing the American flag pushes people to greater affinity for the Republican party:
The conclusion, which Dr Ferguson reports in a paper in Psychological Science, was that participants’ voting intentions were, indeed, affected by seeing the flag. The possible average scores on presidential voting intentions ranged from -10 (definitely voting for Mr Obama, definitely not voting for Mr McCain) to +10 (definitely voting for Mr McCain, definitely not voting for Mr Obama). The actual scores of those subsequently assigned to the two groups did not differ significantly the first time round. The second time, though, those who had been shown the flag were more weakly pro-Obama and more strongly pro-McCain, with a score of -3.0, than those who had not been shown the flag, who averaged -4.8.
For the political-party-warmth ratings, the potential score range was between -500 (extreme warmth towards Democrats, extreme cold towards Republicans) and +500 (extreme warmth towards Republicans, extreme cold towards Democrats). The team found that flag-viewers were cooler towards Democrats and warmer towards Republicans, with average scores of -90, while those who never saw a flag had scores that averaged -173.
The Economist also reports that earlier research on the Israeli flag suggested that seeing the flag might push people to more moderate positions, so one theory is that Republicans are subconsciously seen as more moderate than Democrats. As appealing as I might find that theory, I don’t think it’s right. Tim Groseclose’s work found that Barack Obama is only slightly more liberal (37.3 left of center) than John McCain is conservative (34.6 right of center), so voting for McCain is not a dramatically more centrist position than Obama.