The GOP’s Secret Weapon- the Flag?

The American flag – an iconic symbol of “the republic for which it stands.” But could the republic’s flag be responsible for creating more Republicans? Amazingly enough, new research suggests yes: Seeing an American flag can shift voters towards Republicanism

In the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election, Carter recruited a group of around 200 volunteers and asked them about their political views. A month or so later, he split them into two groups that were comparable in terms of their political beliefs, voting intentions and other variables. Both groups rated how likely they were to vote for either the Democrat Barack Obama or the Republican John McCain on an online questionnaire. The questionnaires were identical except for one small detail – in the top left corner of the screen, one group saw a small American flag and the other saw nothing.

That tiny difference was enough to swing their voting preferences. Carter found that the volunteers who saw the tiny flag became more likely to vote for McCain than Obama (relative to their answers at the start of the experiment). They claimed to feel more positive towards the Republicans and even when Carter tested their unconscious atittudes, a small Republican bias still came through.

After the election, Carter contacted the volunteers again and asked them who they actually voted for. He found that those who saw the flag were less likely to have voted for Obama than those who didn’t (73% versus 84%). They were also more likely to think that the media were unduly harsh in their treatment of McCain. Remember that there were no differences in the political leanings of the two groups before one of them saw the flag-bearing questionnaire.

Finally, in July 2009, Carter caught up with his volunteers one last time. Even though eight months had passed since half of them saw the tiny flags on-screen, these recruits still showed some Republican bias. They were less happy about Obama’s job performance than their peers, less warm about other liberal leaders, and even held slightly more conservative views. (Bear in mind that in this final round, only a third of the original sample answered Carter’s call; however, both the flag and no-flag groups were equally represented).

We’ll know the left is taking this Republican threat seriously when they move to ban flags at polling stations.

(Hat tip: Bob Collins)

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