May 24, 2016

What Voters Really Think: Professor Joel Weinberger Featured on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360”


Joel Weinberger, Ph.D., spoke to CNN about voters’ unconscious opinions of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This year’s race for the White House seems unending in its shock value. 

In a recent segment, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360º  featured Joel Weinberger, Ph.D., professor in the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, for his research on how unconscious thoughts influence voter behavior. He and a colleague tested voters’ unconscious perceptions of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump and found some surprising results. 

In an experiment with 750 voters nationwide, Dr. Weinberger and Drew Westin, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Emory University, tested 15 words that voters unconsciously associated with Clinton and Trump. The words included likable, presidential, bigot and scary.

Participants saw a photo of one of the candidates on their computer screens. They also saw one of the 15 words and a list of four colors. They were told to click on the color that matched the font used for the word. If the word ‘presidential’ was in red lettering, for example, they knew to click on the word ‘red.’

According to Dr. Weinberger, the more strongly a person associates the word with the candidate the longer it will take him or her to select the color.

Likable did not come up high on the list for either candidate. Instead, the strong associations for Clinton were scary and presidential. For Trump, the strongest associations included bigot and leader.

Dr. Weinberger explained the Trump results to CNN’s Randi Kaye: “He says it: I can do, I can succeed, I’m great at everything.”

Dr. Weinberger and Dr. West assert that such unconscious associations will influence behavior at the polls, particularly among voters whose loyalties are wavering.

» Catch the full Anderson Cooper 360º segment.


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