Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Electoral Collage

Fascinating electoral tidbits (and depressing conclusions) in Louis Menand's "The Unpolitical Animal" in the "New Yorker."

Rephrasing poll questions reveals that many people don’t understand the issues that they have just offered an opinion on. According to polls conducted in 1987 and 1989, for example, between twenty and twenty-five per cent of the public thinks that too little is being spent on welfare, and between sixty-three and sixty-five per cent feels that too little is being spent on assistance to the poor.

And ...

When you move downward through what Converse called the public’s “belief strata,” candidates are quickly separated from ideology and issues, and they become attached, in voters’ minds, to idiosyncratic clusters of ideas and attitudes. The most widely known fact about George H. W. Bush in the 1992 election was that he hated broccoli. Eighty-six per cent of likely voters in that election knew that the Bushes’ dog’s name was Millie; only fifteen per cent knew that Bush and Clinton both favored the death penalty. It’s not that people know nothing. It’s just that politics is not what they know.