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Where people vote could affect the outcome

Washington, Fri, 20 Jan 2012 ANI

Washington, Jan 20 (ANI): People who were asked survey questions near a church were more likely to report themselves more politically conservative and negative towards non-Christians than those surveyed near government buildings, a study found.


The study, by Baylor University students, was conducted outside Westminster Abbey and Parliament in London, and Basilica of Saint Servatius and Maastricht Town Hall, in the city of Maastricht in Netherlands.


Researchers said that their study adds to a growing body of evidence that religious 'priming' can influence both religious and nonreligious people.


Priming occurs when a stimulus such as a verbal or a visual cue - for example, the buildings that were in participants' line of vision during questioning - influences a response.


According to Jordan LaBouff, Ph.D, psychology lecturer at the University of Maine who collaborated on the research while a doctoral candidate at Baylor - and lead author of the study - the findings are significant in that churches and other buildings affiliated with a religious group are among the most common polling places.


"The important finding here is that people near a religious building reported slightly but significantly more conservative social and political attitudes than similar people near a government building," study co-author Wade Rowatt, PhD, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, was quoted as saying.


"In a close election, the place where people vote - a school, a church, a government building - could affect the outcome. For example, a higher percentage of people voting in a church instead of a school might vote for a conservative candidate or proposition," he said.


The study "raises questions about how our spaces can influence our attitudes", said LaBouff.


"We should look carefully at places where important decisions are made," he said.


He noted that while those conducting the survey made certain that the church or government building was within sight of the participant, they did not question people who were entering or leaving the buildings.


"We didn't want people who were there for the express purpose of going into a church, because that might mean they were inherently more religious," LaBouff said.


Survey participants were diverse and multicultural - 99 individuals from more than 30 countries. They were questioned by Baylor University students during a study-abroad tour, and Baylor psychologists in the College of Arts and Sciences analyzed the data collected by the students in an advanced research methods class.


Another finding of the survey was that regardless of the setting, negativity toward Christians was not statistically significant among the culturally diverse group of passersby.


"Interestingly, these more negative attitudes toward non-Christian groups were held by a very diverse - and largely non-Christian - sample... The only people who weren't viewed negatively were Christians. They were a non-factor," LaBouff said.


Passersby were asked to rate 'outgroups' - those who were different from themselves in terms of culture and/or religion. Groups listed included rich, poor, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, gay men, lesbian women, Africans, Asians, Europeans and Arabs.


Participants were asked to rate their feelings of 'coolness' or 'warmness' toward certain groups on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the warmest.


The study was published online in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. (ANI)


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