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Undecided Voters Not So Undecided After All
Date:8/21/2008

Study finds unconscious preferences can predict final outcome

THURSDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The great swath of undecided voters who typically decide elections might not be so undecided after all.

A new study suggests that individuals have unconscious preferences that can more accurately predict the final vote than standard measures.

A test to measure unconscious associations may give pollsters a heads-up on election outcomes.

"Typically, it's the undecided voter that gives politicians a hard time. It's the undecided voters that you need to get," said senior study author Bertram Gawronski, Canada Research Chair on Social Psychology at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. "This study shows that by using these measures, there is some potential for improving the prediction of election outcomes."

The paper was published in the Aug. 22 issue of Science.

Conventional wisdom dictates that people make choices based on conscious, informed thought and careful weighing of information.

Recent research suggests this might not be the case, and, in fact, there may be ways to measure these unconscious associations.

"The inspiration for this study came from the development of a particular class of measures that enables us to assess these automatic mental associations," Gawronski explained. "Over the past couple of years, a lot of research has shown that these measures are able to predict behaviors that psychologists have had a hard time predicting with standard methodology or self-report."

The authors of the study, based both at the University of Western Ontario in Canada and at the University of Padova in Italy, quizzed 129 residents of Vicenza, Italy, about their attitudes regarding the planned enlargement of a U.S. military base in that city.

The questions were designed to assess both conscious beliefs as well as unconscious associations v
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