If the pandemic continues unabated until November, it could give Republicans like President Donald Trump an edge on election day. That's because fear of germs and disease makes people more conservative.
Coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming pace.
While cases tripled in South Korea Saturday, outbreaks struck in Singapore, Italy, Iran, and Canada. Further, a U.S. outbreak could be next. Authorities in Michigan are monitoring 325 people deemed medium risk for novel coronavirus infection.
But if the pandemic continues unabated until November, it could affect U.S. elections as well. It could even give Republicans like President Donald Trump an edge on election day. That’s because fear of germs and disease makes people more conservative.
Numerous studies have established the connection between conservatism and fear of harm and disease. In fact, the conservative temperament maps directly onto the human disgust response. That response is an adaptation that helps human beings avoid potentially dangerous contagions via a feeling of revulsion.
Disgust is a useful adaptation that characterizes the conservative mindset:
To a surprising degree, a recent strand of experimental psychology suggests, our political beliefs may have something to do with a specific aspect of our biological makeup: our propensity to feel physical disgust.
And it exists in opposition to another useful adaption that characterizes the liberal temperament: openness to experience. That’s important to exploration, innovation, and progress. The balance of both has helped the human species survive and thrive.
Researchers have found they can even make people temporarily more conservative by having them fill out a questionnaire near a hand sanitizer dispenser:
Participants who were randomly positioned in front of a hand sanitizer gave more conservative responses to a survey about their moral, social and fiscal attitudes than those individuals assigned to complete the questionnaire at the other end of the hallway.
And by having study participants sit in a room with dirty food containers, scientists were able to get them to judge moral failings (like lying on a resume or keeping a wallet found on the street) more harshly than those who judged the from a clean room.
Interestingly, researchers have found this works in reverse. Scientists have made conservatives more liberal in the lab by telling them to visualize a genie making them magically invulnerable to harm.
If all it takes is the mere suggestion that germs exist to make a Bernie Bro slide toward Rush Limbaugh’s perception of the world, what effect will the coronavirus epidemic have on voters? Even if there’s never a severe coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., these studies suggest Trump could still benefit from a prolonged epidemic in China.
Merely watching it unfold in China on our smartphones could push swing voters into Trump’s camp because of the fear that coronavirus could spread to North America. Another reason is because of the way research has found the mere suggestion of disease alters personalities toward a more conservative outlook.
This phenomenon is so powerful that there’s a correlation between the prevalence of disease-causing parasites in a region and the emergence of authoritarian governments. If coronavirus continues unabated, Donald Trump could win in a landslide.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.
This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.
Last modified: February 23, 2020 2:25 PM UTC