Faulty Logic

Ezra Klein (my emphasis):

Larry Bartels amasses an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting that, yes, voters are aggressively ignorant, and yes, it matters — swings elections, even. It’s a pretty bad situation. Indeed, the only plausible worse situation would be if voters were informed.

He then quotes the following from Bartels:

[V]oters’ perceptions may be seriously skewed by partisan biases. For example, in a 1988 survey a majority of respondents who described themselves as strong Democrats said that inflation had “gotten worse” over the eight years of the Reagan administration; in fact, it had fallen from 13.5 percent in 1980 to 4.1 percent in 1988. Conversely, a majority of Republicans in a 1996 survey said that the federal budget deficit had increased under Bill Clinton; in fact, the deficit had shrunk from $255 billion to $22 billion.

Bartels refers to these as folks who should know better.  They know plenty of information about textbook civics, dates, and figures.  But he has just said they are skewed (suggesting off center) but partisan bias.  SO certain facts (when was Lincoln president?) are immune to such ideology.  Current policy and/or philosophical discussion not so much.  Because that is caught up with self-identification/emotion and identity. They did refer to themselves as “strong Democrats” in Bartels formulation.  Better informed?  Or simply better at the talking points?

So the definition of informed is being partisanly biased?  That is they are being formed into a partisan (and hence ideologically biased/irrational) mold.  So why exactly is this proof that voter information is worse?  It just suggests to me if we could have some (at least not totally ideologically/biased) information–who knows.

Nothing shows in my book such a blinkered beltway view that the only way to inform people is to make them more partisan.

Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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