American Roulette: The Effect of Reminders of Death on Support for George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential Election


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Florette Cohen, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, N.B., Tillett Hall, Livingston, 53 Avenue E, Piscataway, NJ 08854 [e-mail:].


An experiment was conducted to assess the effect of a subtle reminder of death on voting intentions for the 2004 U.S. presidential election. On the basis of terror management theory and previous research, we hypothesized that a mortality salience induction would increase support for President George W. Bush and decrease support for Senator John Kerry. In late September 2004, following a mortality salience or control induction, registered voters were asked which candidate they intended to vote for. In accord with predictions, Senator John Kerry received substantially more votes than George Bush in the control condition, but Bush was favored over Kerry following a reminder of death, suggesting that President Bush's re-election may have been facilitated by nonconscious concerns about mortality in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.