Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Symposium #60
Political Strategies and Behavioral Analysis: How Does a Voter Make His Choice?
Saturday, May 26, 2007
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
Gregory AB
Area: CSE/TPC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Leopold O. Walder (Behavior Service Consultants, Inc.)
Abstract: The potential impact of behavior analysis on the field of politics has not been assessed nor have thoughtful applications been widespread. Recent elections show how important a small difference in votes can be. An influence that changes one percent of voter choices can alter future years of national spending, safety and war strategies. What variables are active in these vital numbers? What behavioral strategies are at work in these numbers and what aspects of these strategies would be useful to a candidate? This symposium presents four answers to these crucial questions that could make the margin of difference. The first presentation reviews past and possible successful manipulations of voter individual behavior from the behavioral viewpoint. The second paper reviews the role of peer and small group pressures that are likely to influence voter choices. The relatively new impact of radio talk-shows on the political scene is the subject of the third presentation. The last presentation illustrates four specific campaign activities that can engage the voter in behaviors related to voting and to voting for the candidate providing the event.
A Behavioral View of Manipulations of Voting Behavior.
LEOPOLD O. WALDER (Behavior Service Consultants, Inc.)
Abstract: The individual vote leaves a record to be tabulated with the votes of other citizens. A behavioral analysis studies the individual vote itself and the context of that behavior. The context includes relevant preceding events leading up to that vote (including the campaign itself and getting the voter to the polling place) and contemporaneous events at the moment of that vote (including the voter reading a printed slate of candidates provided by one of the contesting parties). The analysis of the outcome of the election would also include events subsequent to the vote (such as the quality of the tabulation of the vote and other events such as legal contests about the election and its tabulations). Manipulators of the outcome of the election would need to influence relevant aspects of the contexts of the vote and of the tabulations. We cite examples of manipulations of events relevant both to the voter’s behavior and also to the officially accepted outcome of the election. Elections in this country and in others have shown that manipulation is probably ever present in all elections. We shall present examples of manipulations from the high of quality campaigning to the low of falsifying the tabulations.
A Candidate’s Behavioral Analysis.
ROGER W. MCINTIRE (University of Maryland)
Abstract: Engaging the voter in comment and “voting” on issues during the campaign can influence future behaviors such as the likelihood of advocating the candidate’s positions and voting on election day. On that premise, the following strategies will be demonstrated and illustrated in the handouts. 1. The candidate’s mailings could include a reply-comment post card concerning the issue presented in the mailing. The pre-paid post card would allow the prospective voter to comment, “vote,” on the issue and retain a tear-off lapel “I-will-vote” sticker for himself. 2. Petitions for a candidate’s on-line proposal could, for example, ask voters to mail their signature in support of a global warming initiative proposed by the candidate. Voters would receive a bumper or lapel sticker by a return mailing. 3. The candidate’s web-site could suggest, for example, useful energy-saving practices and ask for comment. Responders would be entered in a lottery for a brief one-on-one conversation with the candidate on an upcoming internet Town Meeting or call-in show. 4. Candidate Jeopardy could invite questions the candidate might answer on the internet. Each question would enter the sender in a lottery for “An on-the-air minute” with the candidate. Selected questions would guarantee brief interview time.
Peer Pressure and Small Groups.
JUDY G. BLUMENTHAL (Association for Behavior Change)
Abstract: Peer influence and group pressures influence behavior, more so if consequences for not exhibiting the "right" behavior are clear and immediate. Therefore, the behavior of not voting, or voting, and for whom, can be predicted in part if one or more variables of an individual are known. These variables are: age, gender, location, and activity level. For example, the active aging population is more likely to cast votes than young adults. One reason for this is that seniors consistently reinforce each other's behaviors in support of political agendas pertaining to their well being (a major criterion in today's state of the union). In small towns familiarity may be high -- thus pressure to conform to community norms is strong and the likelihood of a large turnout in a local election is good. However, the likelihood of small town residents voting for national candidates is not so good, if consequences to their no vote are not clear. Therefore, candidates must do a behavior analysis of groups and communities (1) to determine where their votes are needed, (2) to determine how to increase the number of those voting, and (3) to influence these individuals to cast the "right" vote.
The Influence on the Voter of the Radio Talk Shows.
DONALD K. PUMROY (University of Maryland)
Abstract: Radio talk shows are a relatively new entry in the political world. This phenomenon allows ones message to be broadcast for a long period of time, something not available in the past. For example, in the Washington DC area one radio station broadcasts the Conservative Republican position for approximately nine hours a day, Monday through Friday. This paper defines the techniques used by talk-show hosts and cites the possible impact on the behavior of the listeners. The radio programs focused on will be those hosted by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Excerpts from these programs will be used to provide examples of the techniques used designed to influence the behavior of the listeners. While the content of the program may focus on other news, much of the program is concerned with politics. During these political segments the over all aim is to discredit the view of the opposition in any way possible while keeping the guest's position in a favorable light. The impact of the interview is not likely to be reduced unless the accuracy of the material presented is challenged in a thoughtful way. The results of these programs on the public and voters will be discussed.



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