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Gregg Murray, PhD - Augusta University. Augusta, GA, US

Gregg Murray, PhD

Professor of Political Science | Augusta University


Murray's research focuses on political behavior and psychology with specific interests in voter mobilization.







3Qs with Gregg Murray on the difficulty of electing third-party candidates Dr. Gregg Murray on Caveman Politics: Hungry Games: How Does Hunger Affect Your Politics? by Gregg Murray Gregg Murray Interview: Height in Presidential Politics (CNN/Smerconish, 200215)




Murray is a professor of political science at Augusta University. His research focuses on political behavior with specific interests in
voter mobilization and turnout. His research has appeared in journals such as American Politics Research, Expert Systems with
Applications, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Political Marketing, Political Psychology, Political Research Quarterly, Politics
and the Life Sciences, Public Opinion Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Social Science Research. He is also the Editor-in-Chief
of Politics and the Life Sciences, an international, peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press. He teaches courses on political behavior and research methods. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Houston in 2003.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Government Responses to COVID-19

Research Methods

Political Behavior

U.S. Government

Public Opinion

Public Policy


Affiliations (4)

  • Augusta University Center for Bioethics and Health Policy : Affiliated Faculty
  • Association for Politics and the Life Sciences
  • Psychology Today
  • Editor-in-chief of the journal Politics and the Life Sciences

Media Appearances (11)

A guide to Saturday’s Republican primary in South Carolina

WRDW  tv


The South Carolina Republican primary elections will take place Saturday, and before you cast your ballot, there is a lot to unpack. The current frontrunners are former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Despite Haley’s tenure as the former South Carolina Governor, the polls point to Trump. Trump is projected to win by about 30 points based on the polling leads he has. The latest poll from USA TODAY shows 63% of state primary voters planned to vote for Trump, while 35% were casting their ballot for Haley. “The race is shaping up to be not too much of a race,” said Dr. Gregg Murray, a professor of Political Science at Augusta University. “Donald Trump is way ahead in the polls. Last time I checked, he had almost two-thirds of the support in the polls and Haley was down to about a third so you got a two-to-one or 30 points spread. So he’s got a substantial lead. The polling could be wrong, but that’s highly unlikely. But you know, this is going to be an important race and it may end up being the final decision for this Republican nomination.”

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Ron DeSantis IS telling tall tales when he says he doesn’t wear lifts, shoemakers reveal: Experts point to all the signs in Florida governor’s cowboy boots that he DOES have hidden heels

Daily Mail  online


They have been the focus of millions of Twitter views, have sparked a flurry of excitement on TikTok and prompted amateur sleuths to investigate. They are 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis‘ cowboy boots. The Florida governor has been accused of inserting lifts into pairs of brown and black boots to turn them into heels, giving him a height boost – as Americans traditionally like taller candidates. Augusta University Political Science professor Gregg Murray, who has studied physical components and how they relate to political preference, told DailyMail.com Tuesday that ‘there’s an instinctual preference for physically formidable leaders,’ which is related to wanting strong allies during a conflict.

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What awaits us in the presidential race? AU expert weighs in

WRDW  tv


Election 2024 is still 18 months away, but with several candidates already declaring and more expected soon, the next election cycle is well underway. President Joe Biden announced this week his official reelection bid by releasing a video which also included Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden defeated former President Donald Trump who announced his 2024 campaign back in November, almost two years before voters will go to the polls in the general election.

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New Georgia Project organization helps get voters to the polls

WRDW  tv


Richmond County has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout in Georgia. But an organization is trying to help change that by giving voters rides to the polls. We spoke to leaders in the group managing the rides and a voter who says this program is a big help. The vans are through the New Georgia Project, and they are working to give free rides to voters heading to the polls.

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How to raise a political mini-me

Chicago Tribune  


The bad news for those seeking to improve their odds is that most of us already marry people with compatible political values. And the bad news for men is that if the parents do differ politically, the kids are somewhat more likely to end up agreeing with their mom, according to Gregg R. Murray, an associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University...

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Voters Size Up 2016 Presidential Candidates: Who’s the Tallest?

The Wall Street Journal  


Height brings a distinct advantage to a political candidate, says Gregg R. Murray, an associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University, reflecting what he thinks is a sense many people have that a taller leader is a stronger one. “In particular, during times of threat, we have a preference for physically formidable leaders,” said Mr. Murray, who started studying public attitudes toward presidential heights five years ago, inspired by a 6-foot-7 graduate student...

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Tanned and toned, but ‘bodybuilder’ Bobby Jindal totaled in push-up contest

The American Bazaar  


Forget the ‘Presidential Height Index’ created by Gregg R. Murray and J. David Schmitz which observed that taller candidates have won 58% of US presidential contests between 1789 and 2008. That index didn’t help former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, at 6 feet 4 inches, to win the presidency, in 2012. If he had done so, he would have tied Abraham Lincoln for being the tallest president. Barack Obama became president again, despite being fully three inches shorter than Santorum...

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Caveman politics: why it's height that really matters in the corridors of power

The Independent  


"Some traits and instincts that may have been acquired through evolution continue to manifest themselves in modern life," said Gregg R Murray, political science professor and co-author of the report. "We believe similar traits exist in politics."...

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The Well News  online


U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., introduced five bills on Thursday as part of a package aimed at curbing ethical breaches by lawmakers and restoring public trust in Congress. The bills take several courses of action to prohibit unethical behavior and strengthen existing rules dictating how congressional funds can be spent. While some of the bills are entirely new, several of them have been reintroduced after failing to pass in previous legislative sessions.

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Students from out-of-state still have the opportunity to vote outside of their hometown

WJBF  tv


For out-of-state students, voting may not come as easily. Questions like where or how to vote might be the first thing that comes to mind. “We have students from all over the country, so yes, there are all kinds of different students at Augusta University. A lot of different students from, I believe almost half the students at Augusta University are not from the Augusta area. So, we have a wide variety of students,” Political Science professor Dr. Gregg Murray said. Some students who aren’t from the Augusta area, but go to school here, feel that they aren’t able to make decisions or have opinions on local elections.

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Two AU professors release study on the pandemic’s impact on crime

WRDW  tv


We’re learning more about the pandemic’s impact on spikes in crime. Looking at data locally, in 2020, we saw a slight dip in total shootings from the year before. Then in 2021, shootings and aggravated assaults jumped by 22 percent. This year, we’re on pace to have similar numbers to last year. We went over data with Augusta University to see if there is a larger connection between the pandemic and crime.

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Answers (1)

With Rudy Giuliani being called to court in Georgia, is it more a political move or a legal move following the 2020 elections?

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"When politicians are involved, there are almost always political calculations, but there’s a lot of information suggesting there may be problematic behavior that he was heavily involved with. There are reports of investigations involving several possible Georgia law violations: solicitation of election fraud, making false statements to local officials, conspiracy, racketeering, violations of oath of office and involvement in violence or threats of violence, according to Voice of America."

Articles (13)

Crisis Leadership and Moral Rhetoric After a Foreign Attack on the Homeland: Zelenskyy, Bush, and Churchill

Sage Journals

Gregg Murray, Grantham Sandlin, Raymond Tatalovich


What kind of moral rhetoric do national leaders use after their homelands are attacked by foreign forces? Informed by crisis leadership literature, this study uses Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) to examine the rhetoric of three leaders of nations before and after attacks by foreign forces: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and the 2022 Russian invasion, U.S. President Bush and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and British Prime Minister Churchill and the 1940–41 German bombing campaign. The word-based automated content analysis shows that following the attacks the leaders substantially shifted their moral rhetoric. They also employed similar moral rhetoric, mainly by using Harm rhetoric, presumably to condemn the destruction and loss of life suffered by their nations. All three also emphasized Loyalty rhetoric, presumably as a call to nationalism, and Authority rhetoric, presumably to rally followership. Otherwise, they gave little attention to Degradation rhetoric, which presumably would demonize the enemy. This study is one of very few to evaluate political elite rhetoric during crises. It is also one of a small number to assess political elite rhetoric through the lens of MFT. It demonstrates that MFT can be a useful tool for understanding political elite rhetoric and crisis management across heterogeneous contexts.

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A second look at partisanship’s effect on receptivity to social pressure to vote

Frontiers in Psychology

2020 Social pressure can exert a powerful, but sometimes counterproductive, influence on compliance with the social norm of voting. Scholars have tested several implicit social pressure techniques to reduce negative reactions to these methods. Among the most innovative is the use of ‘watching eyes’ in voter mobilization messages.

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An Experimental Examination of Demand-Side Preferences for Female and Male National Leaders

Frontiers in Psychology

2020 Females constitute a far smaller proportion of political leaders than their proportion in the general population. Leading demand- and supply side explanations for this phenomenon account for some of the variance but leave a great deal unexplained. In an effort to account for additional variance, this research evaluates the issue informed by the biological theory of evolution by natural selection, a foundational explanation for the diversity and function of living organisms.

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Perceptions of political leaders

Politics and the Life Sciences

2017 Partisan identification is a fundamental force in individual and mass political behavior around the world. Informed by scholarship on human sociality, coalitional psychology, and group behavior, this research argues that partisan identification, like many other group-based behaviors, is influenced by forces of evolution. If correct, then party identifiers should exhibit adaptive behaviors when making group-related political decisions.

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I Only Have Eyes for You: Does Implicit Social Pressure Increase Voter Turnout?

Political Psychology

2016 Get-out-the-vote mailers using explicit social pressure consistently increase electoral turnout; however, they often generate a negative reaction or backlash. One approach to increase turnout, yet alleviate backlash, may be to use implicit social pressure. An implicit social pressure technique that has shown promise is to display a set of eyes.

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An Experimental Test for “Backlash” Against Social Pressure Techniques Used to Mobilize Voters

American Politics Research

2012 This research explores the possibility of psychological reactance, or “backlash,” against political candidates who use social pressure to mobilize voters. There is a compelling theoretical argument and solid empirical evidence suggesting social pressure substantially increases voter turnout.

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Caveman Politics: Evolutionary Leadership Preferences and Physical Stature

Social Science Quarterly

2011 Following evolutionary psychology, we argue that physical stature matters in preferences regarding political leadership. Particularly, a preference for physically formidable leaders evolved to promote survivability in the violent human ancestral history.

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Microtargeting and Electorate Segmentation: Data Mining the American National Election Studies

Journal of Political Marketing

2010 Business marketers widely use data mining for segmenting and targeting markets. To assess data mining for use by political marketers, we mined the 1948 to 2004 American National Elections Studies data file to identify a small number of variables and rules that can be used to predict individual voting behavior, including abstention, with the intent of segmenting the electorate in useful and meaningful ways.

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Prioritizing public health? Factors affecting the issuance of stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19 in Africa


Gregg Murray, Joshua Rutland


COVID-19 has sickened and killed millions of people globally. Conventional non-pharmaceutical interventions, particularly stay-at-home orders (SAHOs), though effective for limiting the spread of disease have significantly disrupted social and economic systems. The effects also have been dramatic in Africa, where many states are already vulnerable due to their developmental status.

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Assessing the Effects of COVID-19-Related Stay-at-Home Orders on Homicide Rates in Selected U.S. Cities

Sage Journals

Gregg Murray, Kim Davies


Most U.S. states issued stay-at-home orders (SAHOs) to limit the spread of COVID-19 in 2020. These orders required people to remain in their residences except when undertaking essential activities. While SAHOs are a powerful public health tool against infectious diseases, they can have significant social and economic consequences. Grounded in general strain and routine activities theories and using interrupted time series analyses, this study assesses the effects of SAHOs on homicide rates in 10 U.S. cities. Substantive results suggest SAHOs were associated with changes in homicide rates in theoretically identifiable ways.

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Science was not a high priority in US governors’ decisions to issue COVID-19-related Stay-at-Home Orders


Susan M. Murray, Gregg R. Murray


In the opening weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, 90 percent of the US population were under a Stay-at-Home Order across 42 states. Susan M. Murray and Gregg R. Murray examine the factors which may have influenced state governors in issuing COVID-19 related Stay-at-Home Orders. They find that medically related scientific factors were only mildly related to the issuing of COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders. Compared to protecting public health, the timing of the initial orders and states’ political and economic conditions were much more important in governors’ decision-making. What went into US governors’ decisions to issue stay-at-home orders (SAHOs) in response to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic? Mandating social distancing is a powerful tool for fighting the spread of infectious diseases. But depriving people of their freedom of movement – the practical effect of issuing a SAHO – is a profoundly consequential decision. The social and economic costs to society are tremendous, not to mention harms to fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly and the free exercise of religion. Governors are fully aware of the potential electoral costs they may pay for imposing a severe disruption on voters. It is reasonable to expect that taking measures to stop the spread of a large-scale, easily transmissible, and demonstrably lethal disease would be the primary driver of decisions during this time of crisis. This is particularly the case for a disease like COVID-19 of which initially little was understood as infection spread quickly and hospitalization and death rates spiked. But how does protecting people from a widespread and urgent health threat weigh against political, social, economic, and other factors traditionally expected to influence public policy?

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Predicting the issuance of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in Africa: Using machine learning to develop insight for health policy research


Jordan Mansell, Carter Lee Rhea, Gregg Murray


During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have issued stay-at-home orders (SAHOs) to reduce viral transmission. Because of their social and economic consequences, SAHOs are a politically risky decision for governments. Researchers typically attribute public health policymaking to five theoretically significant factors: political, scientific, social, economic, and external. However, a narrow focus on extant theory runs the risk of biasing findings and missing novel insights. This research employs machine learning to shift the focus from theory to data to generate hypotheses and insights “born from the data” and unconstrained by current knowledge. Beneficially, this approach can also confirm the extant theory. We apply machine learning in the form of a random forest classifier to a novel and multiple-domain data set of 88 variables to identify the most significant predictors of the issuance of a COVID-19-related SAHO in African countries (n = 54). Our data set includes a wide range of variables from sources such as the World Health Organization that cover the five principal theoretical factors and previously ignored domains. Generated using 1000 simulations, our model identifies a combination of theoretically significant and novel variables as the most important to the issuance of a SAHO and has a predictive accuracy using 10 variables of 78%, which represents a 56% increase in accuracy compared to simply predicting the modal outcome.

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Afraid of whom? Threat sensitivity’s influence changes with perceived source of threat

Cambridge University Press

Gregg Murray


Taking insights from the fields of psychology and biology, a growing body of scholarship considers the psychophysiological foundations of political attitudes. Subconscious emotional reactions to threat, for example, have been shown to predict socially conservative attitudes toward out-groups. However, many of these studies fail to consider different sources of perceived threat. Using a combination of survey and physiological data, I distinguish between fear of others and fear of authority, finding that threat sensitivity predicts divergent political attitudes depending on the strength of each. Those who are more sensitive to threat from others tend to hold socially conservative attitudes, while those who fear authority generally take more libertarian positions. As sensitivity to threat is at least partially inherited, these findings highlight the genetic role of political predispositions.

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