ScienceShot: Incumbents Should Root for the Home Team

Worries over taxes, the economy, and the national debt will certainly hold sway on citizens heading to the polls this November. But what about the previous week’s sports scores? To look for unexpected influences on voting habits, researchers recently compiled the individual county outcomes of presidential, gubernatorial, and senatorial elections between 1964 and 2008 and compared them with local college football results during the same period. They found that a home team win in the 2 weeks before Election Day gave an incumbent politician a 1.05% to 1.47% bump in the polls. Areas with ardent football fans were even more susceptible to this effect. Where local game attendance is among the top 20 in the nation, incumbents gained an additional 2.42 points, according to a paper published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers suspect that this effect comes from gleeful fans selectively remembering favorable policy decisions and sticking with the status quo.

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