Term of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Amy Hackney

Committee Member 1

Nick Holtzman

Committee Member 2

Karen Naufel


Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) slogan was embedded with underlying ideologies that are perceived by some individuals as promoting strict laws, policies, and punishments (Goldstein & Hall, 2017). Specifically, he is notorious for his support of capital punishment on more than one occasion (Richard, 2018). Punishment decision making can be influenced by an individual’s belonging to social categories that may have been formed based on political beliefs, gender, and other social criteria (Kahan et al., 2009). Additionally, racial disparities within the legal system persist and are known to be maintained through racially biased punishment decision making. Our research explores whether the MAGA slogan can cause disparities in punishment and legal decision making in a hypothetical criminal case. Recruitment yielded a total of 143 participants; after screening, 67 participants remained for data analyses. Participants were all White, Georgia Southern University students. Participants were randomly assigned to either a neutral prime condition or a MAGA prime condition. In an ostensibly unrelated study, participants then read about a Black or White defendant in a criminal case and made sentencing judgments. Our primary hypothesis was that participants in the MAGA condition would assign longer prison sentencing recommendations and assign higher scores on the risk assessment DVs. Results revealed a main effect of MAGA prime on prison sentencing and a main effect of suspect race; contrary to hypotheses, participants assigned shorter prison sentences when in the MAGA prime condition and participants assigned longer prison sentences to White suspects. Overall, this research can aid our understanding of how political slogans and presidential terms can influence American’s legal decision making.

Research Data and Supplementary Material


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