Voter IQs Need Refresher Course
Republicans are delighted to hear they scored better than Democrats and independents in a new survey of political knowledge. Fine. I'm sure Democrats would be just as boastful if their side scored better. Everybody in politics wants to believe that their side is brilliant and the others are a bunch of nitwits.
What's disturbing to me is how many participants, including members of the
Perhaps no one should be shocked that more than a third of the independents did not know that the donkey is the Democrats' mascot and "
But more than one-fifth of Republicans didn't know they were the
On eight of 13 questions about politics, Republicans outscored Democrats by an average of 18 percentage points, according to Pew. That's at least partly because Republicans tend to be older, which in my experience makes them more attentive to the news. Back when I taught college journalism classes, I was both amused and appalled by how little students keep up with the news unless you assign them to do it.
But it is hardly a trivial pursuit for voters to know, for example, which party wants to restrict access to abortion. Yet a third of both parties and independents in the Pew survey answered incorrectly -- and more than one-fourth of all three groups did not know it is Democrats who "support raising taxes on higher income people."
Almost the same percentage did not know which party favors a "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants. It's the Democrats.
Ten percent of Republicans guessed wrong when asked which party was "more conservative on most issues," but that's better than the 40 percent of Democrats who also got it wrong.
Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone complain about low voter turnout. Do we really want to encourage even more Americans to vote?
Well, yes, said
No, it is relief from radical mood swings and polarized politics that Ornstein is after. In that pursuit, expanding the electorate tops a list of useful suggestions that he and
It is their hope that making it more convenient for Americans to vote would encourage more moderates and independents to vote and cool off some of the hyperpartisanship that increasingly has gridlocked legislation in
"Higher turnout would attract more citizens with less-fixed partisan and ideological commitments into the electorate," they write.
Ornstein invited me to imagine near universal voting in the
It is a noble dream to imagine the end of base-focused campaigns, in which each party tries to mobilize their strongest supporters and suppress the likely voters for the other side. But, considering how many Americans oppose any intrusion by government into their lives, I don't expect to see mandatory voting very soon.
Besides, there is something to be said for those who care enough about voting to take the time and effort to do it. The challenge for our political leadership and for us in the media is to help them receive good information as to whom and what they're voting for.
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Voter IQs Need Refresher Course | Politics
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