Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ziegler on (Obama) voters and the media's failure to inform

Hat tip to Blue Grass, Red State on former radio-host Louisvillian, John Ziegler...

The link takes you to Ziegler's interview on Hannity & Colmes-- as well as providing links to HowObamaGotElected.com. Apparently, Zogby has taken some heat for the poll. You can read their defense here.

Ziegler says his point is that far too many voters (including a disproportionate number of Obama voters) were ill-informed. But he blames the media for failing to inform and twisting and sensationalizing certain info-- rather than blaming the individuals.

As to the contention that this is a disproportionate issue with Obama voters, it should be noted that Ziegler offered to pay 2:1 on the expenses to conduct the poll if his assertion is wrong. At least Colmes was not willing to take that bet.

Perhaps an equally interesting question: how will such people respond to the varying successes and failures-- perceived and real-- of an Obama administration?


At November 19, 2008 at 9:30 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

Eric, this is silly at best. Ziegler took 10 questions from Republican push polls, and asked only Obama voters these questions. This was undoubtedly designed to make Obama voters look stupid. Ziegler offered some nonsense explanation as to why they only polled Obama voters (they were studying how the media blah blah blah). But he claims that McCain voters would do better on those questions. Of course they would! The questions are Republican push-poll questions. Left unanswered is how "low information voters" actually voted. My impression is that this peculiar demographic (largely composed of working-class white people, "Wal-Mart shoppers") actually tended to vote Republican. Nor do they consider the question, how did well-informed voters vote? High-income and high-education voters actually both voted for Obama.

This makes no more sense than the WorldNutsDaily article that appeared right after the election: they claimed that unmarried women provided the margin of victory for Obama.

At November 19, 2008 at 11:45 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Some of the questions are push-poll-like, but others were (presumably) neutral-- such as "who controls Congress"?

Ziegler's angle and motive may be silly or less than admirable, but the results are still useful. As noted, he has offered to pay 2:1 on a similar poll if the results are worse for supposedly-uninformed GOP voters.

More broadly, it underlines an important principle and observation within political economy: that people are relatively poorly-informed-- and have a strong incentive to be that way. As a result, interest groups have a disproportionate impact on policy within a democracy, despite the detriments.

At November 19, 2008 at 8:56 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

Quizzing Obama voters would be reasonable only if a neutral party chose the questions—and asked them of McCain voters too. That would be the only fair test as to which candidate had the voters who were the most "low information."

Once upon a time, people had to pass a literacy test to register to vote. Seems reasonable, perhaps, but of course the real reason voters were subjected to a test was to prevent them from registering. Namely, minority voters. Like the old joke from the South, where the black fellow tried to register to vote, and they tested him by giving him something in Latin, and asked him what it said. He looked at it, and answered, "It says here, that no black person will ever vote in this county." And they had to register him because that was correct! So, of course, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned this sort of thing. Now, if a minority or anyone else is angry about the way tings are going, and they want a change, they are allowed to vote for change, even if they're a bit fuzzy on things. It's their right, and that is a good thing.

At November 19, 2008 at 10:21 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Although quite flawed in many ways, democracy is the best thing going-- the best we can do in a fallen world.

But at the same time, we shouldn't be excited about ignorant people voting, per se.

At November 20, 2008 at 8:41 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

Of course, ignorance in voters is not good. But this points to an enormous problem that has been extremely resistant to any solution: school systems where students don't learn. I don't know what the solution (or solutions) to this problem should be—"core curricula" and high-stakes testing, or vouchers? But the gravity of the problem came home to me several years ago, when I had lunch with a colleague of mine over at the New Albanian Pizzaria, and a student of his happened to join us. She was a junior major in the natural sciences—a successful student—but in our conversation, I found out she didn't know what decade World War Two happened in.

At November 20, 2008 at 9:32 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

(true) education reform-- injecting competition/choice into schools-- is easily the most important issue we face today.

but it would not get (very far) at the "rational ignorance" problem in political economy. even for "educated folk", there is little reason to become informed on politics-- and so, we would continue to expect people to focus on party and one or two issues in any given election (as we see today from educated people).


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