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The success of any election depends on whether it was free and fair both to the candidates and the voters. Due to media coverage of national elections locally, regionally and globally, subtle psychological cues have become popular and are being used in student Representative Council (SRC) elections to harness voter preferences. This study focused on investigating the relationship between subtle psychological cues and voter preferences among university of Zimbabwe students. More so, the study was focused on four operationally defined subtle psychological cues namely Ballot order effects, Hallo effects, Negativity bias and Push polls on whether they would influence the participant’s voter preference. The study takes the form of an experimental research design and is based on a sample of 80 purposefully selected participants. In addition, primary data was gathered using 4 ballot papers with a Likert scale and was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Studies (SPSS) version 23. Descriptive statistics, T-tests for independent samples, Chi-square tests and Pearson correlation were computed to establish the degree of the relationship between the variables in question. Results show that of the four subtle psychological cues under investigation, negativity bias and hallo effects were predominantly popular due to the American presidential debates such as that of Richard Nixon against Kennedy and Barack Obama against Hilary Clinton. In addition the results show no statistically significant group differences on how gender, ethnicity and year of study affected voter preferences. Ultimately, there were three positive correlations for the experiments Ballot order effects, Hallo effects and Negativity bias. However, contrary to the reviewed literature there was a negative correlation between Push polls and voter preferences. The conclusion was that there is statistically significant relationship between subtle psychological cues and voter preferences and hence have the potential to increase or decrease the votes a candidate obtains. Therefore, the University can closely monitor SRC elections and make sure the students do not abuse psychological cues such as negativity bias and push polls as they have the potential of ruining the student’s reputations. Also the organisation can add to its current SRC election policies the strategies that were implemented in this study to hold other factors at a constant such as using butterfly ballot paper ordering to help make the free and fair.
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Archival date: 2021-05-18
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