Scared of spiders and loud noises? You might just be a Conservative.

New research out this week indicates that people who startle easily and react strongly to spiders tend to favour public policies that emphasize law and order, fighting terrorism and restricting immigration. In short: the nervous and twitchy tend to vote conservative. From the US National Science Foundation:

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), tested 46 people who identified themselves as having strong political opinions. Researchers showed subjects threatening visual images--pictures of a spider on a person's eyeball, a dazed person with a bloody face and an open wound with maggots in it--and monitored their skin for electrical conductivity, which indicates emotion, arousal and attention. In another physiological measure, the scientists surprised subjects with a sudden, jarring noise and measured how hard they blinked in response to being startled.

"Those with the strongest eye or skin reactions to unexpected noises or threatening pictures such as a spider on a person's eyeball tended to endorse political positions that were interpreted as protective of social groups," said John Hibbing, professor of political science at UNL.

Hibbing defined those "protective policies" as more defense spending, more government resources directed at fighting terrorism and tighter controls on immigration. "People in this group are more willing to sacrifice a little of their privacy to protect the social unit," Hibbing said. "On the other hand, the subjects who reacted less strongly to the stimuli were more likely to favor policies that protect privacy and encourage gun control."

The upshot: if you scare easily, Stephen Harper has some policies you may be interested in. Of course, this research opens the door to some new campaigning tactics for the beleagured NDP and Liberals. A well-cooridnated national campaign of hiding behind bushes and startling passing Conservative staffers and candidates may entirely disrupt the CPC's ability to effectively communicate in public.

On the other hand, how's this for a new Harper slogan: The Conservative Party of Canada: Pandering to Scaredy-Cats since  2003. That'll play like gangbusters in the sticks.