Low Information Voters

Modern language, whatever else it is and however misused, is at least fertile, especially over the past few decades. We all come across numerous modern expressions which fit the linguistic purpose for which they evolved.

One which fits rather well in my view is the mainly US term low information voter or LIV. There is nothing technical about the term – we probably all know what it means without being told and without having to look it up on Wikipedia.

From wikipedia

Low information voters, also known as LIVs or misinformation voters, are people who may vote, but who are generally poorly informed about politics. The phrase is mainly used in the United States, and has become popular since the mid-nineties.

Surely UK politics suffers acutely from the problem this term so neatly encapsulates? Whether the problem is suffered equally by left and right I don’t know.

American pollster and political scientist Samuel Popkin coined the term “low-information” in 1991 when he used the phrase “low-information signaling” in his book The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns. Low-information signaling referred to cues or heuristics used by voters, in lieu of substantial information, to determine who to vote for. Examples include voters liking Bill Clinton for eating at McDonald’s, and perceiving John Kerry as elitist for saying wind-surfing was his favorite sport.

Over in the US, Professor Jacobson thinks the LIV problem is much more a problem for the political right than the political left.

I previously wrote about how BuzzFeed Politics has combined “the culture” and savvy crafting into a highly effective tool for undermining Republicans with subtle and not-so-subtle mockery.  “Look at the goofy cat, look at the goofy celeb, look at the goofy Republican” is more dangerous to us than a 5000-word article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Back to Wikipedia, there are plenty of examples of what political parties are up against. It’s nothing we don’t know, but is worth raising because it’s an intractable issue.

A 1992 study found that in the absence of other information, voters used candidates’ physical attractiveness to draw inferences about their personal qualities and political ideology.

 A study performed using logistic regression analysis on data from the 1986 through 1994 American National Election Studies found that low-information voters tend to assume female and black candidates are more liberal than male and white candidates of the same party.

 A 2003 study that analyzed precinct-level data from city council elections held in Peoria, Illinois between 1983 and 1999 found that the placement of candidates’ names on the ballot was a point of influence for low-information voters.

 An analysis concerned with the “puzzling finding” that incumbent legislators in mature democracies charged with corruption are not commonly punished in elections found that less-informed voters were significantly more likely to vote for incumbents accused of corruption than were their better-informed counterparts, presumably because they did not know about the allegations.

 The LIV problem is not a problem for mainstream politics, in the sense that they probably don’t care if voters are informed or not. They just want influence – by pulling whatever levers there are.

UK politics is corrupt, but whose responsibility is that? Is it the corrupt political classes or the low information voters or both?

6 comments for “Low Information Voters

  1. March 5, 2013 at 11:44 am

    This is why meritocracy has merit. It can be a simple test, unloaded but the problem is keeping the PCists away from it. Until then, there is no choice but to include the LIVs in the one man [person] one vote thingy.

    • March 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Meritocracy does have merit, but I suspect an incorruptible version is beyond us.

  2. Nick
    March 5, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve always thought that stupid shouldn’t be allowed to vote. A basic test to isolate understanding of where state money comes from, the damage tax does to an economy and the way welfare traps people in poverty for a start.

    At least then the stupid can vote, but will have to do so aware of what it is they do. Sadly some people are simply tribal. Personally I’d prefer an interview to remove the tribal voter from politics altogether. Their reasoning is based on reflex, history and not past experience or logic. In short, the very group who should not be allowed to vote.

    • Furor Teutonicus
      March 6, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      XX I’ve always thought that stupid shouldn’t be allowed to vote.XX

      Mental subnormals are not….(are they? Never know WHAT Bölair and Brown allowed into law nowdays).

      If it is still the case, then it is not a problem of “Stupid, voting”, but that the LEVEL of “stupid” has been set WAY to high.

  3. amfortas
    March 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Despite the misinformation and the mendacities, let alone the ‘dismissal’ of particulars and people, in Oz (and elsewhere, I suspect) moat voters completely disregard the favoured policies of their tribal political party and effects that bite them on the arse. A commentator can point to the bite marks and the teeth and those so afflicted will still vote for the same destructive lefty drones.

  4. March 7, 2013 at 5:56 am

    It’s arguable whether these morons do most damage every 4/5 years when they vote, or every day in their day to day lives.

    They don’t stop being morons when they leave the polling office, after all!

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