Skepticism

Election Superstitions

Happy Halloween!

The virtual juxtaposition of Halloween and election day affords me the irresistable opportunity to write about…election superstitions.

Considering the critical state of our nation and the importance of the upcoming election, it is understandable that people from all walks of life may be engaging in superstitious activity. Thanks to Matt Hutson, from Psychology Today for emailing me this interesting post about 7 election superstitions.

For example, did you know that John McCain and most of his staff are extremely superstitious? McCain carries a lucky penny, a lucky nickel, a lucky quarter, a lucky compass, and a lucky feather. And that’s after he cut back on superstitious paraphenalia.

Also, it looks like Obama is going to win, but some who desire that outcome are less likely to say it. Because they’re afraid of jinxing it.

Barack Hussein Obama. Saddam Hussein. Osama Bin Laden. Studies have shown names matter. In one study, affixing a “poison” label to a bottle of sugar water caused people to avoid drinking it, even when they knew it was only water. People often reject baby names if they don’t like someone with the same name. And poor Obama has been “cursed” with names that have negative connotations.

Hutson also suggests that some people feel voting for Obama will “even the karmic playing field”, as if voting in a black president will constitute racial reparations.

The crux of superstition is that it gives us the illusion of control over events that are important to us, but outside our circle of influence. Humans are hard-wired to notice patterns and assign causal connections. Doing a simple cost/benefit analysis, it is less harmful to perform a futile supersitious act than to miss a valuable one. Hence, rabbit feet.

For more election superstitions, read Matt’s post, and/or listen to his talk about superstition on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

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23 Comments

  1. I think superstitions are like religion for a lot of people – the “believer” is really just hedging his bets (i.e., just in case magic does exist. Unlike religion though, there’s probably no harm in carrying lucky items. I mean, some of the items have practical use. For example, McCain could use the lucky compass to find his way back home to Sedona next Wednesday. On the other hand, I can’t imagine what the feather is for. (Uh oh, now I’m having impure thoughts about Sarah Palin again.)

  2. I wouldn’t give my child the same name as someone I didn’t like, but not because of some superstition about what sort of person the child would become. I just wouldn’t want to be reminded of that person I didn’t like, every time I said my child’s name.

    That “poison” sugar water thing is really crazy, though.

  3. Just goes to show, people really are pretty stupid. I have NO love for Howard Stern, but he did this little experiment wherein he showed the blind loyalty some have for their candidate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM2xHggg7Uk

    (I think that’s right. I’ve never tried to link to anything before.:))
    The interviewer asked Obama supporters about Barrack’s policies, but he listed McCain’s policies as if they were Obama’s. He even asked, if Obama wins, would they be comfortable with Sarah Palin as VP. And they say yes … Oy.

  4. @TheSkepticalMale:

    I’m afraid I missed the infomercial. I read his book though, and gosh, he just seems so nice. How can we go wrong? Whenever there’s trouble in the middle east and a sour economy, what we really need is a President who’s main selling point is that he’s such a swell guy.

    Plus, we’ll get all that change.

    I am a Hedge

  5. Fucking Obamaphobes need to get the fuck over it. With any luck, they’ll be living for the next 8 years with a Pres named Hussein (she said, crossing fingers just in case =grin=).

    “Hussein” has nothing to do with terrorists. It’s a common name meaning “beautiful” or “handsome.” (I have it on good authority that every parent thinks his/her child is beautiful. And my son is the most beautiful of all, nyaaah nyaaah nyah nyaaah nyaaaaaaaaah, no brag, just fact.) All of us Facebookers who have changed our middle names to Hussein are the Beautiful People! w00t!

    I am the Mad Hussein LOLScientist, and I approve this message. Mewtant Kittehs for Obama! =^..^=

  6. @Im a Hedge: I really didn’t realize how bad the economy was until I saw the informercial with Obama’s hard luck counterparts to Joe the Plumber … (Thanks, Obama!) … Sure he has no foreign policy or executive experience and has not even served a single term in the U.S. Senate, but he has written three books with the words “change” and/or “dream” in the title, so why would Democrats even consider someone as boring as Bill Richardson?

    @themadlolscientist: Yes! Obama is much prettier than Hillary too.

  7. @TheSkepticalMale:
    I tried to look up his voting record, to see where he really stands on things when it counts. It turned out he doesn’t have a voting record, either in the US Senate or in Illinois. Although, if you strongly favor “No Vote”, Obama’s your man.

    For some reason I’m not hearing people complaining this election cycle about the influence of money, and how the election is being bought by the candidate with the most funds. I wonder why that is? (Although, I expect the Republicans to pick up on this anytime now. It’s not as though they have standards.)

    I am a Hedge

  8. @Im a Hedge: I look at the political parties like rival sports teams in the same area – there is a constant ebb and flow of money and “talented players” (talent=personality) … When one team gets too powerful, fans start to migrate to the other team … As the Howard Stern post indicates above, the electorate does not seem to care too much about actual policies.

  9. I’m not a McCain supporter, but I think he’s going to win. When I say this to my pals, who are freakshow bigtime fans of Obama, they begin yelling the word “Doubter” at me. As in, “Doubter! Doubter! You’re a doubter! Doubter! Why must you doubt?!?!?”

    To which I respond, “Because doubt is the lifeblood of honesty.”

    They think about this, then begin yelling again.

    And I find myself making sure there’s not a river around they can throw me in to see if I float or not.

  10. @briarking: I enjoyed the Stern link. Thanks.

    I’ve already voted and just couldn’t vote for a guy who attended a church for 20 years that was lead by kook who believes HIV is a government conspiracy.

  11. @Diane That’s a blog post in and of itself. Briefly…

    Do you know the difference between a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat?

    Yeah. Neither does anyone else.

    You cannot rally around a vacuum. You have to have something completely different to get behind. Obama talks a big game, but he’s just another Clinton, a moderate Republican with a Donkey on his lapel. Most US citizens don’t make enough money to benefit from his ideas, just like with Clinton. And most of us are savvy enough to know a line of bull when we hear it.

    ESPECIALLY after the bailout business. The same commitment to war as a diplomatic tool. The same commitment to continuing NAFTA, the war on drugs and the war on terror. Etc. ad nauseum.

    Palin cinched it, btw. Conservatives LOVE her.

    I might be wrong, but I wasn’t eight and four years ago, and I doubt I am now.

    And let me be clear – I don’t support McCain.

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