President George W. Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the September 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday…

“A lot of leaders gain their appeal by helping people feel they are heroic, particularly in a fight against evil,” Greenberg said in a telephone interview from Hawaii, where he presented the findings to a meeting of the American Psychological Association…

Greenberg, Solomon and colleagues then decided to test the idea further and set up four separate studies at different universities.

“In one we asked half the people to think about the September 11 attacks, or to think about watching TV,” Solomon said. “What we found was staggering.”

When asked to think about television, the 100 or so volunteers did not approve of Bush or his policies in Iraq. But when asked to think about Sept. 11 first and then asked about their attitudes to Bush, another 100 volunteers had very different reactions.

“They had a very strong approval of President Bush and his policy in Iraq,” Solomon said….

The volunteers were aged from 18 into their 50s and described themselves as ranging from liberal to deeply conservative. No matter what a person’s political conviction, thinking about death made them tend to favor Bush, Solomon said. Otherwise, they preferred Kerry.

“I think this should concern anybody,” Solomon said. “If I was speaking lightly, I would say that people in their, quote, right minds, unquote, don’t care much for President Bush and his policies in Iraq.”

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