Can the Stress of Voting Be Reduced? A Test within the Context of the 2012 US Presidential Election
33 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
One out of three voters in the 2012 U.S. elections voted at home rather than at traditional polling places yet little is known about the physiological and psychological consequences of distinct voting modalities. One potential difference is the amount of stress involved and, in order to determine the level of stress associated with different voting procedures, we conducted a novel field experiment within the context of the 2012 election. Participants were randomly assigned either to vote at the polls, to vote at home, or (as a control) to go to a convenience store. Stress levels were then measured via survey self-report and also via levels of cortisol, a glucocorticoid known to be relevant to stress. The results indicate a significant elevation in cortisol when voting took place at traditional polling places and therefore have implications for reformers pondering the value of expanding opportunities for at-home voting.
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