Voting for the winning candidate makes guys want to watch pornography, a study suggests.
Building on past studies of testosterone levels, a husband-and-wife team of psychologists examined Internet usage and found a pattern between the number of search requests for porn and the states that backed the winners in the last two presidential elections, as well as in the congressional election between them.
"We don't usually think that our testosterone might go up after elections, or that we become more sexually interested in our mates or pornography immediately following a win, but this suggests the environment changes us in ways that we don't think about," said Villanova University's Patrick Markey, who collaborated with his wife, Charlotte Markey of Rutgers University, on the study.
Past research showed that after they win or lose in competitions, people often experience a surge or drop in testosterone, respectively. Such changes are seen even if the people are only spectators of contests. For instance, while men typically show a slight nighttime drop in testosterone levels, male voters for Sen. John McCain showed a larger testosterone drop than normal during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, while those of male voters for Sen. Barack Obama kept steady.
Since testosterone and sex are linked, the Markeys reasoned that after elections, men who had voted for winners might seek out sexual stimulation. The two psychologists focused on the Internet, where up to 25 percent of all search-engine requests made every day are for pornography, and men make up 72 percent of visitors to porn sites.
Google supplies weekly reports on what people search for and keeps track of which areas those requests are made from. Using this data, the researchers looked up the popularity of pornography searches in "red" and "blue" states - those voting for Republicans and Democrats, respectively - in the week before and the week after the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections and the 2006 midterm elections. This involved checking searches for the 10 most popular words used in porn requests, such as "boobs."
The Markeys discovered that after the 2004 presidential election (won by Republican George W. Bush) and the 2008 presidential elections (won by Democrat Obama), porn searches did go up in states that voted for the winning party.
"We don't know for sure if testosterone is the reason why we are seeing these changes in porn-seeking behavior," Patrick Markey said, "but it seems like the best explanation at the moment."
This trend also held true for the midterm elections in 2006, when Democrats captured the Senate, House of Representatives and a majority of governorships and state legislatures.
"If we saw this just for one election, you might chalk it up to chance, but we saw a pattern with it happening three times," Patrick Markey told LiveScience. "It's also cool that we saw these results with both Republicans and Democrats - that these were general results not just driven by one political party."
The psychologists noted that another possible explanation for these findings was that voters for winning candidates were simply in better moods, and thus more likely to desire sex. However, past research has shown mixed results when it comes to the links between mood and desire - for instance, it's often the people who feel down who have a greater desire for sex.
"This is probably because for some people, sex is something we do not do to celebrate our moods but to change them - when we are sad, we have sex to make ourselves happy," Patrick Markey said.
The Markeys detailed their findings online Sept. 23 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.