The Campaign Spot

The Key Demographic of America’s Wrong-Information Voters

From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Key Demographic of America’s Wrong-Information Voters

Liz Sheld, examining some Pew survey results and confirming our worst suspicions, that a significant minority of the electorate walk around believing that certain political terms mean the opposite of what they really do:

Looking just at the first question, which Pew has used to determine whether people who say they are libertarians actually know what the term means, 57% correctly identified the definition of “libertarian” with the proper corresponding ideological label. Looking at the other answers, an astonishing 20% say that someone who emphasizes freedom and less government is a progressive, 6% say that is the definition of an authoritarian and 6% say that is the definition of a communist.

As E. Strobel notes, “The term ‘low-info voter’ is inadequate. . . . More like ‘wrong-info voter.’”

Perhaps when we’re trying to persuade the electorate as a whole, we have to toss out terms like “conservative” or “libertarian.” Not because they’re not accurate, but because they represent obscure hieroglyphics to a chunk of the people we’re trying to persuade.

If you’re one of these perpetually tuned-out voters, maybe words like “conservative” or “libertarian” are signals that indicate, Hey, this is that politics stuff that you don’t like to hear about, so you can stop paying attention now. This is frustrating, and I understand and feel the irritation that we have to water down or dumb down our arguments because some voters can’t be bothered to understand some concepts we find pretty basic.

We political junkies love political philosophies, and keep subdividing ourselves into smaller and more precise groupings. (Crunchy Cons! Neoconservatives! Libertarian Populism! Reform Conservatives! Eisenhower Anarchist!) We love these labels and terms, because we feel that they help explain a coherent way of looking at the world, government, the Constitution, human rights, society, etc. But to a lot of people, they might as well be Dungeons & Dragons character classes. They don’t know which political philosophy best matches how they see the world because they flat-out don’t understand the terms and, perhaps most maddeningly, are not convinced that they need to know them — nor much about anything else.

Recall Jonah Goldberg’s column to those self-proclaimed “socially liberal, fiscal conservative” types who are, in fact, actually “socially liberal and fiscally liberal”:

When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bush’s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a “political vote.”

A little while back, I talked about celebrities who are not closely identified with the Republican party or conservative movement, who can articulate a conservative approach to an issue, and enjoy widespread applause: Adam Carolla, HGTV host Nicole Curtis, CNN host/chef Anthony Bourdain, Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs,” Gene Simmons of KISS . . . They say what they think, directly, but they rarely if ever frame their arguments in terms of political philosophies.

Which argument is likely to be most effective?

A) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the conservative principles that the government that is closest to the people is most likely to make the best decisions, is most accountable for those decisions, and is easiest to correct those decisions.

B) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the libertarian principles that the power of the state should be limited and the power of the individual should be maximized.

C) School choice is a good idea because it puts decisions in the hands of parents, who know what is best for their children.

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