Cover Story

Soon, psychologists will have much more information on why Americans vote, including how attitudes toward race and gender affect voting turnout and candidate preference. The National Science Foundation has designated $10 million for the 2008 American National Election Study, which has explored voter behaviors in mid-term and presidential elections since 1977.

"The study's never worked so closely with as many psychologists as we are now," says Stanford University's Jon Krosnick, PhD, who co-chairs the survey.

This time around, researchers will ask a larger and more comprehensive set of questions designed to explore how a voter's psychological makeup influences their voting behaviors, how social networks may influence their decisions and how a person's implicit attitudes toward race and gender affect their views of particular candidates.

The pre-election interviews take place from September to November 3, followed by postelection interviews starting on Nov. 5 and lasting until December.

And to better study minority turnout in this election, researchers have added two "oversamples" of African-American and Latino-American voters.

For the first time, the researchers will also track the evolving views of a separate group of voters participating in a panel study, measuring how their attitudes change over a 21-month period from just before the state primaries started to the postelection period.

In particular, researchers hope to learn what considerations motivate undecided voters to finally pick their candidate.

The earliest panel study will be released immediately after the election, while data from the survey of voters before and after the election will be ready in mid-2009, Krosnick says.

--C. Munsey