The big deal in a new paper "Motivating voter turnout by invoking the self" (see also the official PNAS site, or e.g. this Discover magazine article "The power of nouns….") is that people can be manipulated into voting simply by clever use of nouns instead of verbs in a questionnaire. In each of several studies, potential voters were split into two groups and given (amongst other questions which didn't vary by group) one of two questions to answer:
Group 1 question: How important is it to you to be a voter in the upcoming election?
Group 2 question: How important is it to you to vote in the upcoming election?
Turned out that Group 1 turned out. Really. In one of the studies an amazing 95.5% of them actually turned out to vote, whereas only 81.8% of Group 2 voted. That's obviously a huge effect on voting behavior. And it appears to be caused by the use of a construction with the nominal "voter" instead of the verb "vote".
As hinted at by the paper's title, the authors (Christopher Bryana, Gregory Walton, Todd Rogers, and Carol Dweck) don't think the difference is due to the use of nouns versus verbs per se. Rather, they give an explanation that has a sociolinguistic personal identity feel: when people are asked about "being a voter", they reflect on who they really are, and whether they are the sort of person that does the right thing, and this is very motivating. But when people are asked about whether they will vote, the idea is that people are less likely to consider what sort of person they really are, and instead will just consider the mundane and practical question of what they will do on election day. Cute!
Readers are probably thinking about how such manipulations could be used in other ways to influence their loved ones, customers, students, or professors. And they're probably also thinking: is this really about nouns versus verbs? Here's my 2 cents worth: no. I'd guess that the important property that the nominal constructions have is that they are, to introduce some semanticist's jargon originated by Greg Carlson, individual level, whereas the Group 2 verbal construction is stage level. Put simply, individual level predications tell you about general properties of things, whereas stage level predications tell you what those things are doing, or what state they are in, at a particular time. Thus to say "Barack will read this post" is to make a stage level claim about Barack, whereas to say "Barack is a Language Log reader" is to make an individual level claim about a general property Barack has.
And now it should be clear why this presumably isn't a matter of nouns or verbs. To say "How important is it to you to be one of the voters tomorrow?" would still involve a nominal use of (the plural of) "voter", and yet would be stage level. I'd guess it wouldn't have a huge motivating effect, despite the use of the nominal. On the other hand, to ask "How important is it to you that you vote in elections?" would be to ask about a generic property of the addressee, the individual level tendency to vote. I'd guess this might have a relatively higher motivating effect than a stage level question. Someone please do the study!