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Study reveals pros and cons of being a political underdog



A study co-authored by a University of South Florida associate professor of psychology has found that the underdog label can reap benefits for political candidates, particularly when they are perceived as such by their political base.

Jvandello One phase of the study conducted by USF’s Joseph Vandello, left, and Nadav Goldschmied, a lecturer at the University of San Diego, focused on early voter impressions of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and the potential negative or positive effects of his underdog label.

One conclusion: As far back as 2007, Obama was rated more likeable as an underdog among those already inclined to vote for him. The underdog label, however, did not affect the voting behavior among those who were not already inclined to vote for him in the study’s mock election.

The research suggests a possible reason why momentum seems to constantly shift in the months leading up to elections. People’s love of underdogs may mean that gains in the polls are accompanied by losses of perceived warmth, according to Vandello and Goldschmied.

Donna Winchester, higher education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:00am]


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