Monday, November 17, 2014

Fear Factor

Atrios writes

Everything Is Horrible - Let's Stay The Course

So weird.

David Cameron has issued a stark message that “red warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of the global economy” in the same way as when the financial crash brought the world to its knees six years ago. ... Politically, Conservatives believe an emphasis on the risks still facing the UK will make anxious voters recoil from handing stewardship of a fragile economy to a relatively untried Labour team.
I comment

Both you and the Guardian's correspondent* are attempting to explain the strategy with a model in which voters decide how to vote based on their views of the consequences of their votes -- an attempt rational or otherwise to reason.

I suspect that Cameron's strategy is based on the fact that fear makes people conservative. Psychologists have published experimental results which I will paraphrase from memory (make up on the spot) in which showing people a photo of the mouth of a great white shark causes them to oppose gay marriage (that is in their is less support for gay marriage in the shown a shark subsample than in the shown a flower sub sample -- recall I am working from memory of what I remember from reading abstracts -- that is bullshitting) Here is the abstract I vaguely remembered (thank you Google). I don't know exactly what the "a mortality salience threat" was or what way of being "staunchly unsupportive of homosexuals" it induced.

I doubt Cameron knows this literature even as well as I do. I do not doubt that his message has been tested on focus groups and that it works, and that it works through fear. My guess is that ISIS and Ebola would do just as well as red lights flashing on the economic dashboard.

*I admit I just read the URL and didn't click.

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