Role of Optimism in Obama's Election

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Stephen Schueller
Positive Psychology Center
University of Pennsylvania

“A joint analysis of candidate optimism has determined that, once again, the more hopeful candidate, Barack Obama, has won election. Historically, the most hopeful and optimistic candidate wins more than 80 percent of presidential elections since 1900. We believe that hopefulness has played a major role in this election. When it comes to celebrating what is good about America and to acknowledging our ability to make lasting positive change in the world, Obama wins out over McCain. That message appeals more to Americans at this time apparently.”

Penn’s Study on Optimism in the 2008 Presidential Election:

• The study analyzed the final months of the presidential campaign beginning with the Sept. 26 debate. Researchers were trained in Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations, an analysis tool created by Penn’s Positive Psychology Center. CAVE extracts and analyzes causal statements for positive or negative connotation, as well as three dimensions of causality.

• Members of the Positive Psychology Center at Penn, founded by Martin Seligman, have conducted these studies for more than 20 years. Sensory Logic Inc., a Minneapolis-based company that assesses emotional engagement and focus on a second-by-second basis using facial muscles and combinations of muscle activities, also participated.

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