“President Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the Sept. 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
Talking about death can raise people’s need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
‘There are people all over who are claiming every time Bush is in trouble he generates fear by declaring an imminent threat,’ said Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who worked on the study.
‘We are saying this is psychologically useful.’
Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said generating fear was a common tactic.
‘A lot of leaders gain their appeal by helping people feel they are heroic, particularly in a fight against evil,’ Greenberg said in a telephone interview from Hawaii, where he presented the findings to a meeting of the American Psychological Association.
‘Sometimes that may be the right thing to do. But it is a psychological approach, particularly when death is close to peoples’ consciousness.’ “
Roosevelt: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Bush: “Be afraid. I want you all to be afraid.”
“In one we asked half the people to think about the September 11 attacks, or to think about watching TV,” Solomon said. “What we found was staggering.”
When asked to think about television, the 100 or so volunteers did not approve of Bush or his policies in Iraq (news – web sites). But when asked to think about Sept. 11 first and then asked about their attitudes to Bush, another 100 volunteers had very different reactions.
“They had a very strong approval of President Bush and his policy in Iraq,” Solomon said.
Gosh, you don’t think the Bush campaign has employed psychologists who already figured this out,, do you? Nah – no one would do that to other people on purpose, just to get elected, would they?
The volunteers were aged from 18 into their 50s and described themselves as ranging from liberal to deeply conservative. No matter what a person’s political conviction, thinking about death made them tend to favor Bush, Solomon said. Otherwise, they preferred Kerry.
“I think this should concern anybody,” Solomon said. “If I was speaking lightly, I would say that people in their, quote, right minds, unquote, don’t care much for President Bush and his policies in Iraq.”