The effect of micro-level context in polling stations on voting

Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom*, Amit Birenboim, Ran R. Hassin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Studies of electoral geography have traditionally examined the impact of spatial context on vote choice at the neighborhood or larger geographical level, overlooking potential effects of the immediate physical environment in the polling station. Observations of actual polling stations located in schools in Israel revealed a strong presence of nationalist and religious content in and around voting booths, in the form of naïve décor such as murals and children's drawings (Study 1). In three experimental studies (Studies 2–4), we examine the effect on voters of such seemingly apolitical cues. The experimental studies were conducted in the days prior to Israeli general elections for the 21st and 22nd Knesset. Using a virtual-reality interface based on real-life content in actual polling stations (Study 2, student sample) and simulated environments (Studies 3 and 4, representative samples of Jewish Israeli voters), the three experiments document an effect of naïve nationalist décor on simulated voting, particularly for left-wing less-nationalist voters. In Study 5, based on actual voting in the 22nd Knesset, we capitalize on the random allocation of voters to polling stations in schools and find a correlation between the content displayed around polling places and voting patterns among distinctively left-wing populations. Investigating the influence of the encounter with the immediate environment at a resolution of meters and seconds exposes the potential impact of the (ultra-)micro temporo-spatial scale on decision-making and enriches theoretical discussions on the multiscalarity of contexts in electoral geography analyses.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102976
JournalPolitical Geography
Volume107
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023

Keywords

  • Electoral geography
  • Ideological blocs
  • Immediate spatial context
  • Israel
  • National identity
  • Nationalism
  • Polling stations
  • Religious identity
  • Virtual reality
  • Vote choice
  • Voting methods

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