Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1481–1488 | Cite as

The politics of color: Preferences for Republican red versus Democratic blue

  • Karen B. SchlossEmail author
  • Stephen E. Palmer
Brief Report


The present study reveals that Election Day differentially affects the color preferences of US Republicans and Democrats. Voters’ preferences for Republican red and Democratic blue were assessed, along with several distractor colors, on and around the 2010 interim and 2012 presidential elections. On non-Election Days, Republicans and Democrats preferred Republican red equally, and Republicans actually preferred Democratic blue more than Democrats did. On Election Day, however, Republicans’ and Democrats’ color preferences changed to become more closely aligned with their own party’s colors. Republicans liked Republican red more than Democrats did, and no longer preferred Democratic blue more than Democrats did. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that color preferences are determined by people’s preferences for correspondingly colored objects/entities (Palmer & Schloss in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:8877–8882, 2010). They further suggest that color preferences are calculated at a given moment, depending on which color–object associations are currently most activated or salient. Color preferences are thus far more dynamic and context-dependent than has previously been believed.


Color preferences Visual aesthetics Political orientation Ecological valence theory (EVT) 


Author Note

We thank Joseph Austerweil, Bill Prinzmetal, and Melissa Ferguson for insightful discussions and Mathilde Heinemann for help with preliminary analyses. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. BCS-1059088 and BCS-0745820).


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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