Compassionate Values and Presidential Politics: Mortality Salience, Compassionate Values, and Support for Barack Obama and John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kenneth E. Vail III, Department of Psychological Sciences, McAlester Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211 [e-mail:].


In line with terror management theory, this research demonstrates that mortality salience motivated increased support for John McCain in the absence of reminders of compassionate values. However, polls had indicated that Barack Obama was generally perceived as the more compassionate of the two candidates. Thus, when compassionate values were made salient, death reminders motivated participants to uphold these values by significantly increasing their support for the more compassionate Barack Obama instead. The implications of these findings for terror management theory, the 2008 presidential election, and political endorsements are discussed.