Can polling station location alter how people vote?

I’ve written before about how the number and location of polling stations has an impact on turnout, but what about the candidate choices people make when they are in a polling station?

A new academic study of 99 people suggests the choice of building for a polling station can have an impact on people’s political outlooks:

The location of polling stations may influence how people vote with those near churches encouraging more conservative beliefs, researchers have claimed…

A recent study has shown people are more right-wing and negative toward non-Christians than those asked in sight of government buildings.

The findings raise significant “questions about how our spaces can influence our attitudes” according to academics.

Churches and other religious buildings are among the more common locations for polling stations and could therefore affect the results of a close election.

Professor Wade Rowatt, co-author of the study said: “The important finding here is that people near a religious building reported slightly but significantly more conservative social and political attitudes than similar people near a government building.

“For example, a higher percentage of people voting in a church instead of a school might vote for a conservative candidate or proposition.”…

The study was conducted in both England and the Netherlands by researchers from Baylor University, Texas…

In Maastricht in the Netherlands, passers-by were surveyed outside the Basilica of Saint Servatius and Maastricht Town Hall and in London they were surveyed outside Westminster Abbey and Parliament.

Of course, polling stations located in or near churches are in rather less grand surroundings than the environs of Westminster Abbey which, combined with the limited scale of the research, means caution is particularly appropriate in interpreting the results. However, the idea that physical location changes people’s psychological dispositions is an increasingly common finding in such research, as with the question of what would happen if you put polling stations on the first floor…

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