Washington Science is confirming something successful politicians seem to know instinctively — support your local football team.
The success of major college teams in the two weeks before an election can have a measurable impact on how well incumbent politicians do at the polls, researchers report in today’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Events that government had nothing to do with, but that affect voters’ sense of well-being, can affect the decisions that they make on election day,” the researchers said.
That’s why incumbent politicians try to score some good news just before elections, and their opponents try to block that effort.
The new study looked at elections for president, governor and senate between 1964 and 2008 and compared them with football results for 62 major college teams. The researchers found that victories in the two weeks before an election boosted the vote share of incumbents in the county where a school is located by 1.05 to 1.47 percentage points — enough to make a difference in a close race.
And for teams they termed “powerhouses” the impact was even greater, giving the incumbents between 2.30 and 2.42 percentage points more than in years when the local team lost. Powerhouses were defined as teams that had won a national championship since 1964, or were among the teams with average attendance of 70,000 or more from 1998 to 2008.