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If elections theoretically can hang on the moods associated with outcomes of football games, is American democracy theoretically a bad idea? Are we doomed to a future resembling the 2006 film “Idiocracy,” in which the nation almost starves because neither the population nor its elected officials realize that agricultural crops should be irrigated with water, as opposed to a sports drink?

College football study co-author Andrew Healy counsels caution.

“These effects are not huge,” said Mr. Healy, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University. “It’s not necessarily affecting most people, because most people are neither huge college football fans nor so undecided that they’re on a knife’s edge about their electoral choices.

“In any given election, it’s hard to say what kind of impact there is. The larger point is that anything that affects voters’ moods — like Hurricane Sandy — can affect their votes.”

In the college basketball portion of their study, Mr. Healy and his colleagues discovered something interesting: If they explicitly mentioned positive NCAA tournament results before asking people to evaluate Mr. Obama, the approval rating bump effect vanished.

In other words, once people were made aware of the reason for their positive mood, they became less biased by it.

“The good thing with this is that it’s not something we can’t control,” Ms. Mo said. “We can control it. And this isn’t just for political behavior. It’s all kinds of things in your daily life, realizing that if you’re making a big decision, your emotions can spill over.”

Ms. Mo, a self-professed sports fan, laughed.

“Maybe I should tell my students to submit their final exams after a big win,” she said. “They might get better grades. I try to be mindful of that.”