Lab Notes: The Moral Voter

Over at her blog Lab Notes, Sharon Begley writes on new studies of voter behavior. An excerpt:

Most of the research on the power of emotions to sway voters has been on how different candidates inspire fear or hope (with the former being more powerful than the latter), or even on how likable they are. But in an essay for the online salon Edge, psychologist Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia looks at something that may be even more potent: voters’ gut feelings about candidates’ moral values. “When gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare,” he writes—something every political psychologist I’ve spoken to this election year agrees with. “Feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete,” he continues. “If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.”