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Revisiting The "Testosterone Effect" In Voting

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

Writer Victoria Bassetti discusses America's lackluster voter participation using a study that suggests hormones may be at work. The study, done in 2008 during the last presidential election, asked participants to chew sugar-free gum right after they voted and again at various intervals after the election. By testing the saliva samples, researchers found that men who had voted for Senator John McCain experienced a large drop in testosterone after hearing of his loss, leaving them feeling "more controlled, submissive, unhappy and unpleasant...[it was] as if they directly engaged head-to-head in a contest for dominance [and lost]." Interestingly, women experienced no change in testosterone levels, and women voters have outnumbered men at every presidential election since 1980.

What's the Big Idea?

Bassetti suggests that examination of the biological factors involved in voting may help towards a redesign of the entire process. In addition to all the other barriers to voting -- among them "the hassles of getting and staying registered, finding the polling station, standing in long lines, deciphering ballots and complying with much contested and confusing ID requirements" -- the possibility that men may become physically turned off by voting is just one extra factor contributing to low turnout, which diminishes the health of American democracy overall.

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