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How Voter Shortsightedness Skews Elections

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the i-don't-like-the-last-thing-you-did-so-i-don't-like-you dept.

Science 269

sciencehabit writes "'Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?' Ronald Reagan's famous question in the U.S. presidential election of 1980 is generally a good yardstick for picking a candidate, or at least for judging a leader's economic policies. But few voters follow it. Instead, they are swayed by economic swings in the months leading up to the election, often ignoring the larger trends. Why are we so shortsighted? A psychological study of voting behavior suggests an answer and points to a simple fix. ... Healy and Lenz challenged their subjects to evaluate hypothetical governments based on slightly varying information. For example, some received information expressed as yearly income while others received the same information expressed as a yearly growth rate. The same information in a plot of steadily increasing average personal income over 3 years—$32,400, $33,100, $33,800—can also be expressed as a steadily decreasing rate of growth—3%, 2.3%, 2.1%. That did the trick. Just changing the units of the data was enough to cure voter fickleness. When economic trends were expressed as yearly income rather than rates of change, the subjects made accurate judgments. But if the same information was expressed as a change over time—the bias reappeared."

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269 comments

Most voters are stupid (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46155745)

News at 10

Re:Most voters are stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156023)

no we aint stupid cuz we presdant now!!!!

Why hasn't the /. beta project been canceled? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156121)

Come on. Why are we still randomly getting sent to the godawful Slashdot beta site?

It's pretty clear at this point that everybody who has been forced to use it absolutely hates it in every way. It really is a step backward. Its numerous design flaws make consuming the content and discussion a lot harder. It feels a lot slower to me. It's harder to post comments. It doesn't bring any benefits at all.

In short, the Slashdot beta is a failed software project. As such, it should be canceled immediately. The source code should be discarded, because there's no redeeming it, it's that badly broken.

Spare me the "nobeta=1" crap that doesn't always work, or some bullshit about creating an account so I can use the classic version. Neither of those should be necessary, because the Slashdot beta site itself should no longer exist at this point. It ought to be completely discarded.

dont blame the voters (5, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 3 months ago | (#46156335)

the researchers themselves dont...from the abstract:

Voters, we find, actually intend to judge presidents on cumulative growth. However, since that characteristic is not readily available to them, voters inadvertently substitute election-year performance

blame the candidates and the news media...both are obviously not doing their jobs.

candidates, because...holy crap they're supposed to be *running* for office. they can't blame others for everything...they are responsible for how they present their case.

news media...obviously idiots. If you want to call people stupid, call ***NEWS PRODUCERS*** stupid fucking idiots. You can thrown in the TV company executives in there too. They have *no idea* what they are doing in regards to the 4th Estate & informing the populace.

I have to fault SoulSkill & all nerds here as well. Its a cop out to say "all people are idiots" as a solution or explanation to every problem. It's reductive and unworthy of our industry. Blaming the user by default *hurts our industry* because it alienates us from the users, and from our own work.

Systems need correction. Blaming the people the system is designed to serve when a feedback loop occurs is illogical!

Re:dont blame the voters (1)

allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) | about 3 months ago | (#46156811)

dont blame the voters

Don't blame people for their own shortsightedness and stupidity? I think I'll do just that. They should be doing their own research to begin with.

Re:dont blame the voters (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46156991)

"Don't blame people for their own shortsightedness and stupidity? I think I'll do just that."

Well, wait, though. If you are going to do that, at least blame them for the correct stupidity, rather than the wrong one.

It's difficult for many people to "do their own research" if the news is blathering untruths and misleadings all the time. People don't expect the news to lie... and it does, often enough that we should be concerned as a country.

So yes, people SHOULD do their own research. But 2 things are required before they will do that: (1) they must first be aware that what they were told (or misled to believe) is wrong, and (2) the correct information must be available.

I assert that condition (1) has all too often not been met.

Re:dont blame the voters (2)

sexconker (1179573) | about 3 months ago | (#46157341)

dont blame the voters

Don't blame people for their own shortsightedness and stupidity? I think I'll do just that. They should be doing their own research to begin with.

You should be doing your on research as well. Looking things up online doesn't count. You're just reading someone else's research, or a reductive article based on yet another person's research. Until you're going out there and counting the pennies yourself, you're not really baking your own apple pie from scratch.

99.9999% of people have no choice but to be shortsighted and stupid when all the information presented to them is shortsighted, and stupid (spun, manipulated, or outright wrong). Saying they should have done their own research is about as salient a point as my telling you you should have grown your own trees for lumber after you bought a cord of wood that turned out to be rotted out.

Re:dont blame the voters (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 3 months ago | (#46157395)

They should be doing their own research to begin with.

It is rational to put no effort in voting decisions on a national level because the effort and time required to be informed is much larger than the realized value of your vote. You are one of millions in all but some house races, and then there is that whole electoral college diminishing the value of your vote further.

What happened yesterday in House or Senate? How did it go? Open a newspaper, turn on the evening news, or cast your eyes on a cable news network, and its a rare day that they report on whats really going on in government. Its all "he said" and "she said", reporting only on whats spoon fed them in press releases and other coordinated information campaigns.

Record both FOX news and MSNBC for (the same) 24 hours and revue the news content. While the channels disagree in an opinionated way, they still report on the exact same set of stories. How can it be that they differ so little as to which stories to cover in a country and world as large as ours yet still be doing their job as a "press?" Clearly they arent what one traditionally thinks of as "press" in the phrase "free press."

Now, because there is no traditional free press left, it is a considerable effort to be an informed voter. Far more effort than being an informed voter is worth, so yes we can blame the fucking reporters for creating a voter tragedy of the commons.

Re:dont blame the voters (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 3 months ago | (#46157177)

Kingdom for a mod point. That is about as informative and insightful as slashdot can get.

Not quite that (5, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 months ago | (#46155755)

It's not

are you better off now than you were 4 years ago

that drives my selection. The matter for me is closer to

  • which candidate on the ballot will harm you the least

Re:Not quite that (2)

khasim (1285) | about 3 months ago | (#46155849)

And bringing it back to TFA, people (in general) are bad at using math to figure out which option is (least damaging / most advantageous) for them.

Re:Not quite that (2)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 3 months ago | (#46155955)

The data they provided is not enough to decide most advantageous. For that, you need TWO numbers in the graph- average cost of living and average wages. Either one alone isn't enough- both political parties know that, so both political parties concentrate on only one number.

Rate of growth kind of tries to measure average cost of living, but the relationship to wages and actual cost of living is too complex for the average voter.

Re:Not quite that (4, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#46156017)

One thing which increases inefficiency in the system is wild swings from one extreme to the the other. A path of moderation gets more lasting things done.

Re:Not quite that (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#46155855)

It's not

are you better off now than you were 4 years ago

that drives my selection. The matter for me is closer to

  • which candidate on the ballot will harm you the least

Pretty much sums up my voting. I look for whomever I figure is most qualified - this doesn't mean is qualified , but that hedges toward someone who might actually have some idea what the F they are doing, rather than being an utter tool and electing candidates based upon Hot Button (sucker) issues, like guns, abortion, creeping socialism, etc.

Re:Not quite that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46155943)

Seeings as where you have a problem putting a coherent sentence together I don't think anyone gives a fuck what you think.

Re:Not quite that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156703)

Pull your socks up. YOUR message has an error.

Re:Not quite that (2)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 3 months ago | (#46156293)

In the end you're still voting for a candidate that will harm you. Further, the more people who vote for them the more their office is legitimized.

This current president is a huge joke, but he's very much legitimate because people voted for him, even if they don't like him.

Honestly I'm not even bothering with the elections anymore. It's pretty much just a new form of strange entertainment, similar to most people's interest in the sex offender registries.

I think a more meaningful ballot is probably the one that comes around now and then where you vote for whether or not the Trix rabbit can finally have some of his much sought after kids cereal. At least in that ballot, people actually are honest with themselves about their voting choice.

Re:Not quite that (1, Troll)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 months ago | (#46156479)

In the end you're still voting for a candidate that will harm you

In the US, there is no choice. We have a choice between conservative candidates, and incredibly conservative candidates. Our current president is the most conservative president our country has ever had, and we will see candidates in 2016 who will probably push to be even more conservative.

I just settle for who will do the least harm to my future, my career, and my well being.

Honestly I'm not even bothering with the elections anymore.

You can make that choice if you want. You have the right to not vote if you want, but don't complain about what the politicians are doing if you take no part in selecting them.

Re:Not quite that (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46156745)

". Our current president is the most conservative president our country has ever had, "
well, there it is. The stupidest statement on slashdot to date.

" but don't complain about what the politicians are doing if you take no part in selecting them."
why not? I don't remember reading where not voting means your opinions on what they are doing are invalid.

Re:Not quite that (0)

evilRhino (638506) | about 3 months ago | (#46156967)

". Our current president is the most conservative president our country has ever had, " well, there it is. The stupidest statement on slashdot to date.

He's not the *most* conservative, but he could easily be within the top 5. He hasn't enacted a single "liberal" action or policy that didn't have corporate backing.

Re:Not quite that (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 3 months ago | (#46157477)

He hasn't enacted a single "liberal" action or policy that didn't have corporate backing.

..because "corporate backing" rules out "liberal," right?

Oh, no it doesn't. You have conflated your hate of corporations with your hate of conservatives. Consider that whole ACA thing. While we call it "Obamacare" it was spearheaded by Pelosi and Reid, not Obama. So now you are basically claiming that Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and the entire Democrat majorities of both House and Senate when the ACA was passed were "top 5 conservative."

Clearly you have dived into the depths of complete partisan ridiculousness.

Things like the ACA aka "Obamacare" is exactly what the NOT CONSERVATIVES do when they have an iron grip on Capital Hill.

Re:Not quite that (2)

allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) | about 3 months ago | (#46156871)

In the US, there is no choice.

You have choices, and some of them are third parties. You (and people like you) just choose to make your own prophecies become a reality. Even if they don't win, it's better than voting for evil, and it can send a message to the main parties.

Thanks for voting for the candidates that continue to infringe upon our rights, though. I'm sure things will change for the better.

Re:Not quite that (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46157011)

Because we all know how much conservatives love gay people and universal healthcare.

Re:Not quite that (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 months ago | (#46157373)

Because we all know how much conservatives love gay people and universal healthcare.

I don't know what kind of alternate reality you live in, but here on planet earth the affordable care act that passed in 2010 is not even remotely close to universal healthcare. All it did was make every person in this country into an obligate consumer for the health insurance industry, which still holds most of the power. It was the largest handout to big business in the history of the world.

As for gay people, what has Obama actually done for gay people? Saying his own views on gay marriage have "evolved" does not equate to actually doing something about it. He could at the very least encourage congress to debate a bill for federal marriage equality but has not done so.

Re:Not quite that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156487)

that drives my selection. The matter for me is closer to

  • which candidate on the ballot will harm you the least

In Nevada, you can choose None of these Above Candidates.

That's my recommendation.

Re:Not quite that (1)

VVelox (819695) | about 3 months ago | (#46156765)

Voting for that which will harm you the least when it comes to civil rights though is a utter failure as it does nothing to ensure your rights are not eroded slowly. When it comes to civil rights issues, people need to become more willing to vote for none of the above.

Re:Not quite that (1)

allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) | about 3 months ago | (#46156829)

The matter for me is closer to

Then you are shortsighted and only seek to maintain the status quo. I know voting for candidates you actually like and that actually seem to care about freedom is a crazy idea, but just try it.

Re:Not quite that (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 3 months ago | (#46157217)

Indeed, that shows the reality of the modern Western democracy - voters do not get to choose who they would want. They get to choose from pool of candidates which often contains no truly desirable candidates for voters, but since voters know that one of these candidates will get the job regardless, they vote for one they see as least harmful to themselves.

Not all Western countries are there yet, but most are following US into that political hell hole as US is still widely seen as the leader of democratic movement around the world and as such, an example to be followed.

Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 3 months ago | (#46155771)

It's shocking how pervasive this axiom is throughout life.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (4, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 months ago | (#46156019)

But that's exactly what this sort of thing shows is not the case! The data about cognitive biases is robust. This one is a variation of the framing effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology) [wikipedia.org] and the data shows that even smart people as individuals don't do well on such tests. We are all as individuals subject to cognitive biases. What's even worse is that knowing about cognitive biases can even be counterproductive http://lesswrong.com/lw/he/knowing_about_biases_can_hurt_people/ [lesswrong.com] because we are much more prone to see them in other people than in ourselves even though we're all subject to them.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (2, Insightful)

Assmasher (456699) | about 3 months ago | (#46156105)

You're presuming that people usually vote and/or act as individuals. I would argue that they do not. There's clearly a herd mentality, especially when it comes to voting. Why else would so many people develop an 'us versus them' attitude instead of 'me versus them.'

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 months ago | (#46157173)

Sure, tribalism exists and that's also a problem. But the central issue here is framing effect, and that occurs at an individual level.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

buswolley (591500) | about 3 months ago | (#46156127)

They are so effected by framing.

For example, we mostly agree that anyone can bed anyone over the legal age under the law moral or not, because its a personal matter

We all mostly agree that we should be able to form contracts with anyone we wish to form a contract. It does not matter if your business partner is a woman or man, gay or not

So why then in the gay marriage issue do people get in a huff being pro gay marriage or anti-gay marriage?

The framing around "marriage" and not "freedom to form contracts" ferments passionate disagreement!!!

In truth, the government should not have a special contract category called marriage. Contracts are contracts, make them how you like, to whom you like.

Libertarian perspectives can cut through the crap sometimes. Some might find this funny coming from me over the last days, but that is because my perspective hasn't truly been appreciated.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 3 months ago | (#46156205)

It does seem pretty silly that you can't be married to multiple people (although that's not my cup of tea, one nightmare at a time is quite enough for me...) doesn't it?

I mean, if each member is aware of previously existing contracts, who cares how many you have?

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46156763)

Yeah, community where people have multiple wives and then children will have serious genetic issues in just a couple of generations. So there is a reason for not allowing it.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) | about 3 months ago | (#46156927)

Yeah, community where people have multiple wives and then children will have serious genetic issues in just a couple of generations.

I see no reason that that would be the case, but I really couldn't care less. If people choose to do such things, it's their choice.

So there is a reason for not allowing it.

So, then, you are in favor of restricting the freedom of consenting people in exchange for safety. How brave and free you must be.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

buswolley (591500) | about 3 months ago | (#46156973)

Smart successful people tend to have fewer children, and children tend to be born when the parent is older. Children from older parents have a greater chance of DNA mutation/errors, which then enter into the population.

doh

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46157039)

Are you sure you're not confusing polygamy with incest? Polygamy has been the dominant system throughout human history. It is only sort of recently that monogamy is gaining in popularity.

Re:Simple - A person can be smart, people are dumb (1)

allaunjsiIverfox2 (3506701) | about 3 months ago | (#46156885)

A person can indeed be smart, but the number of people who actually are smart is absolutely minuscule.

I gave you some food and rent today (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46155793)

You better vote for me! How is that for psychology?

In short... (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#46155803)

People are stupid and are unqualified to vote.

The downside of this, is if people didn't have the vote then very, very evil people would take control.

So think of it this way, we get some dumb leaders; we get some idiotic leaders; we get some bad legislation and we get some self defeating legislation, BUT we can turn around and push it out and replace it with something else.

Under an evil dictator we're stuck until the dictator dooms us with one of the classic blunders -- getting involved in a land war in Asia.

Re:In short... (0)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 3 months ago | (#46156083)

Under a dictator, there is always repeal by bullet.

Re:In short... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 3 months ago | (#46156721)

Under a dictator, there is always repeal by bullet.

Unfortunately, it is usually the "voter" who is repealed by a bullet and not the dictator. Many more "voters" were repealed under Saddam Hussein than Saddams were repealed by bullets.

On the topic of this story, though, "are you better off than four years ago" is not the correct question to ask. As many people here tend to point out, well into Barack Obama's first term the performance of the economy etc. was "the fault" of Mr. Bush. Some even claim that it is still his fault today. Just as the first year or so of a new regime can be on a downward trend from the previous leader and the current one is bringing things back, the first year or so could be on an upward trend and only start back down due to the new leader's programs.

In short, the correct question to ask is "are the current programs making things better or worse", which, amazingly, is just what we're being told that most voters base their votes upon. Voters not so dumb after all.

Re:In short... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46156833)

"are the current programs making things better or worse"

except voter , for the most part, only get there info from an echo chamber.

By every measure we have, thing have gotten better in the use since 2009. Yet people tlak like things are worse.
Stocks, high, unemployment, down, and so on.

Re:In short... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46156797)

easy to say, hard to do when you know that there lackeys will respond by killing your kids and family. Possible your entire group.
'Yeah, I got's gun. I fix everything' sure looks good on paper, rarely works.
I blame action movies for this stupid silver bullet mentality...also werewolves.

Re:In short... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 months ago | (#46156129)

The downside of this, is if people didn't have the vote then very, very evil people would take control.

Um, have you seen who the "people" have been electing?

Re:In short... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 months ago | (#46156287)

Um, have you seen who the "people" have been electing?

Shhhh - you're gonna ruin the propaganda he was fed in 7th grade civics. Next thing you'll do is start citing counter examples and using data - you monster!

Re:In short... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 3 months ago | (#46156269)

Under an evil dictator we're stuck until the dictator dooms us with one of the classic blunders -- getting involved in a land war in Asia.

Of course, no democratic leader would ever make that mistake, right? How soon we forget ...

Re:In short... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156849)

People are stupid and are unqualified to vote.

Which, interestingly enough, is a view that was held by many of the Founding Fathers - that not all citizens should be allowed to vote.

However, that approach carried it's own problems - how to decide which people are allowed to vote. People who own property ?
People who own businesses ? People who are descendants of nobility ? ... etc.
Certain groups were denied the right to vote until fairly recently.
A vote by a black person, once allowed at all, was only counted as three-fifths (3/5) of a white vote. Women were not allowed to vote at all.

No matter how we might try to come up with a system that limits voting rights only to those 'qualified', we will fail, we are human with human vanity, etc.
So, we suffer the problems with the 'everyone votes' approach - namely that dumb/shortsighted people vote, and in large numbers - witness the re-elections
of both GWB and Obama ...

Re:In short... (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#46157049)

[H]ow to decide which people are allowed to vote. People who own property ? People who own businesses ? People who are descendants of nobility ?

How about people who understand the electoral process?

Q1: True or False: If you don't vote on each and every ballot item, your entire ballot will not be counted.

Q2: In a 3-way race in a plurality voting system, what percent of the votes is always required to win? A) 100%, B) at least 50%, C) at least 50% plus one, D) Other

Q3: True or False: The United States elects a President by direct popular election.

Re:In short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46157207)

[H]ow to decide which people are allowed to vote. People who own property ? People who own businesses ? People who are descendants of nobility ?

How about people who understand the electoral process?

Won't work. In the real world the person who creates the test can skew the results to push their own agenda. We tried it with "literacy tests" which as it turns out were "no black allowed" tests in practice.

Re:In short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156923)

Umm... Hate to break this to you but...

Re:In short... (2)

fnj (64210) | about 3 months ago | (#46156953)

if people didn't have the vote then very, very evil people would take control

People have the vote in most places, and very, very evil people have taken control widely anyway.

Before the objection, let me add this. I take this to mean, not that the vote does not matter, but that the vote alone is not enough. A good constitution (e.g., US) is a safeguard, but only if it is observed. The evil people who have seized control are in open defiance of the constitution (they are nothing if not reasonably clever in terms of preservation of their own power). That could be fought if the people themselves really believed in, and cared about, the constitution, but not enough of them do.

In the long run, the presumption is that a sufficiently energized minority of patriots championing liberty and right will rise up periodically against tyranny and refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants (and, concomitantly and sadly, of patriots).

What is needed is a correctional force that kicks in before things get to that stage. Theoretically the supreme court has much that as one of its functions, but since it has been coopted by the evil power structure, that is not working. I guess a >200 year run for the design set up in 1787 isn't all that bad. The first 100 years was on the whole exemplary; the second 100 years less so; likely the third 100 years will be the breakdown.

The folly of trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46155879)

Really, this isn't about people being shortsighted, this is about a population that has been taught to trust those who provide them information being faced with a news industry who hasn't cared about honesty in over 50 years.

When economic trends were expressed as yearly income rather than rates of change, the subjects made accurate judgments.

What a shock, people prefer to work with real numbers than the derivatives. That's the hardest part about calculus, developing an understanding of how derivatives affect the base trend. Once you understand that it works, the rest is just learning the shorthand to quickly calculate derivatives and integrals from known functions.

On the plus side, proper understanding of derivatives allows me to mathematically say "the jerk is constant" about this study.

I detect a flawed approach (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 3 months ago | (#46155897)

Decreasing growth means that inflation will eventually outpace wage growth, so greater income is not equal to more buying power.

I miss the days when enough of slashdot knew c syntax that I could just write !=

Only for swing voters (3, Insightful)

ZahrGnosis (66741) | about 3 months ago | (#46155917)

Most voters stick with long-standing ideals that they think will work long-term -- most people will poll to the same party over and over. Only a small percentage of people that are willing to break with their party could be influenced this way (unless their party was doing something particularly silly near a vote). Swing voters matter, of course, but this article generalizes something that is not generally true.

Re:Only for swing voters (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156189)

most people will poll to the same party over and over.

That hasn't been my experience. I've watched as middle class parents change from solid Nixon/Reagan voters during their earning years into truly viscous and terrified left wing statists as they approach their old age government benefit years.

One of the ugliest and most pathetic things I've ever witnessed.

We're not building a world of happy, secure people with this stuff. We're making hate-filled and frightened subjects. I wish it were otherwise, but it's not.

Obligatory Pynchon (3, Insightful)

srussia (884021) | about 3 months ago | (#46155951)

"'If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers."

Voters never really research people they vote for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46155957)

The trouble with voters is that they never make a educated decision. Its always about one issue, a political party or they believe the BS ads they put out against the other candidate.
In many ways the voter is America's weakest part of our election process. We all know the Black population for example voted for Obama whole heartedly simply because he was Black. I really have no issue with that its understandable. Even today 85% of Blacks polled still support Obama which makes my point that even though Black unemployment is higher now then when Obama took office, and more Black are on welfare just proves a point that its not really about performance. We are so disappointed in government and yet its we the people who can blame for it. I think voters basically go back and forth from one party to the next and never find satisfaction. Much of that is because we elect people only based on a simply surface perception of the candidate. Obama had absolutely no management experience and yet he has managed to get two terms which basically look worse as we go along. Bad decisions make for bad results.

Re:Voters never really research people they vote f (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 months ago | (#46156213)

The expected return from doing any research about the person they're voting for is generally less than the cost of doing the research.

Besides which, when all you're given is a choice between Obama and Romney, what difference would it make?

Re:Voters never really research people they vote f (2)

fnj (64210) | about 3 months ago | (#46157209)

when all you're given is a choice between Obama and Romney, what difference would it make?

That is a perverse and nonsensical suggestive [wikipedia.org] / rhetorical [wikipedia.org] question. From what anyone who was paying the slightest attention in 2008 knew, one was a statist extremist with zero management experience or talent and zero willingness to work with people having diverse political views, and the other an at least half hearted libertarian-conservative with well demonstrated management experience and talent, and demonstrated willingness to work with people having diverse political views.

The two alternatives may not encompass your, or anyone's ideals, but the choice most certainly makes a large difference.

Anonymous Coward (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46157377)

One was a democrat with an eye towards preserving the social contract and a demonstrated willingness to work with people having diverse political views, and the other a predatory vulture capitalist lacking well demonstrated management experience and talen, and a demonstrated willingness to shift his view to the extreme right wing of his party to garner a nomination he believed was his by prophesy (see the White Horse prophesy)

FTFY....

Re:Voters never really research people they vote f (1)

fnj (64210) | about 3 months ago | (#46157079)

We all know the Black population for example voted for Obama whole heartedly simply because he was Black. I really have no issue with that its understandable. Even today 85% of Blacks polled still support Obama which makes my point that even though Black unemployment is higher now then when Obama took office, and more Black are on welfare just proves a point that its not really about performance.

The traditional cynical way of finishing the thought is that it's not about performance, it's about feelings. It does matter if he is doing well by them, he is SAYING what they want to hear.

A more analytical view is that the point itself exposes a fallacy, which is this: if you have not gained ground with your man in power, that does not mean that it is guaranteed you would have gained ground had his opponent won. The following considerations apply:

1) The opponent might have done even worse by you, or at the very least, no better.

2) Your guy might not have the power to implement what he desires.

3) Conditions have been such that neither your guy nor his opponent have any chance to fix things.

One of the flaws of democracy... (4, Interesting)

nman64 (912054) | about 3 months ago | (#46156011)

None of us is as dumb as all of us.

Re:One of the flaws of democracy... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 months ago | (#46156569)

I thought that this applies to meetings [despair.com].
The election and the results of it seems better summarized by If you thing the problems we create are bad, [despair.com]

For the impatients (or less inclined to ponder the nuances) here's my point: it is not entirely the fault of the voting constituients, "absolute-or-rate comparions" won't matter too much if all that's on the different plates to choose from is the same shit in other presentation

Blame their sources for information! (5, Insightful)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about 3 months ago | (#46156027)

The voters make decisions based on the information they are fed. Not the information they *GATHER* by and large, because that is an active process. Most people seem to tune in to the media outlets that favor their political leanings, which are driven by the corporate and special interests that own these media empires. Whether your corporation is Fox, MSNBC, or American Public Media, people are really being spoon-fed an official line that serves somebody else's self-interest, packaged in a way that makes them feel like this media empire puts its own self-interest below that of its audience.

Part of the problem is that news is a form of entertainment, and in the USA at least, news outlets are legally allowed to deliberately lie to you. Journalists are hypnotists, plain and simple, and if they do tell the truth it is because it happens to align with their employers' interests that day.

If people were given the tools to understand this game during their formative years, they might be more willing to take the time to independently research the issues they care about, but even this is a stretch. After a long day at the office, most folks want to just sort of zonk out and, tired and often filled with alcohol, the news is turned on and they absorb the day's "news" without a single functioning critical thought neuron in action.

If I were naive I would suggest some legislative fix to this but knowing how the legislative process works, and its typical results, this would almost inevitably lead to a much worse scenario than that which is being played out right now.

It's not a mystery (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 3 months ago | (#46156053)

A good portion of the voting populace "informs" themselves by switching channels and soaking up whatever the media is feeding them. It's very easy to become blindsided from the real issues by network ratings, paid-for advertising and just plain old lies.

You have to do some footwork to educate yourself because the elections always come down to one thing: Which end of the sh#t sandwich do you want to take a bite from? There has never a "perfect" choice. People are lazy, don't want to do the work and rely on network television to make their choices for them. That's how it works. Both sides know it and capitalize on it.

1/4ly thinking (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156061)

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, so fill it with expectations based on Wall Street's paradigm and see what happens. We've been inundated with unrealistic thinking ever since WWII, McCarthy and neoliberal economics took center stage in your mythology. Why would I expect voter's behavior to differ from that of those who claim that the economy is run by the gub'ment?

If you have a Keen [wikipedia.org] interest if a different viewpoint, you should look into an alternative explanation. [ineteconomics.org]

Lie, Damned Lies, and Statistics... (4, Insightful)

trims (10010) | about 3 months ago | (#46156145)

The fact that a large majority of voters make judgments on what happens in the immediate past (i.e. 3-4 months) prior to an election, rather than the entire term of office (2, 4, or 6 years for various US Congress/Presidents) is well documented, so no surprise here.

Much of that has to do with the difficulty virtually all people have distilling a complex, hugely multivariant problem, into easily understood metrics and views. That's not going to change, because even a super genius is going to only be able to accurately remember a half-dozen major points, while there may be as many as several DOZEN relevant metrics/issues that you probably can consider important.

The proposed solution in the paper is yet another form of a simplification and lie, NOT a real solution. The simple answer is that I see no indication that the claimed "yearly growth" rate is any more accurate than the absolute income. Do the grow rates take into account inflation? (I see no indication they do) What about changes in the job market over those years? What about overall economic indicators? I.e. if the average income managed to grow ANY over the period 2007-2009 (in the middle of the most severe recession in 80 years), then that a huge accomplishment vs say merely keeping up with inflation in 2003. The authors are merely substituting one questionably useful statistic with another (of the same dubious relevance).

Never trust someone selling you a simple numerical answer to a complex problem. Politicians and Statisticians are both extremely adept at contriving lots of meaning from simple numbers. There's a reason this post is titled the way it is.

-Erik

Flawed Question (3, Insightful)

Tempest_2084 (605915) | about 3 months ago | (#46156157)

I always thought the question "'Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?" was flawed. In my case the answer is Yes, I am better off than I was four years ago but it has nothing to do with the current president. In my case it was a lot of hard work, an advanced degree (which I paid for myself), and a lovely new wife that got me ahead over the last four years. We could have elected Donald Trump, Don King, or Kang and Kodos and I would more than likely be in the exact same position I am now.

Re:Flawed Question (2)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 3 months ago | (#46156379)

I always thought the question "'Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?" was flawed. In my case the answer is Yes, I am better off than I was four years ago but it has nothing to do with the current president. In my case it was a lot of hard work, an advanced degree (which I paid for myself), and a lovely new wife that got me ahead over the last four years. We could have elected Donald Trump, Don King, or Kang and Kodos and I would more than likely be in the exact same position I am now.

Statistically speaking that doesn't matter, because there are outliers both ways who are listening.

The problem is that if Reagan had been fair he would have said "Many of you are better off now than when I entered office mainly because that was early in this boom cycle, a cycle that I have little to no control over."

OT (was Re:Flawed Question) (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 months ago | (#46156623)

and a lovely new wife that got me ahead over the last four years.

Apropos flawed questions... pardon my curiosity, but... what did you do with the old one?

(grin)

Re:OT (was Re:Flawed Question) (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 3 months ago | (#46156775)

You targeted the unnecessary use of one of the two adjectives. I would have asked what he did with the ugly one.

Re:OT (was Re:Flawed Question) (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 months ago | (#46157325)

You targeted the unnecessary use of one of the two adjectives. I would have asked what he did with the ugly one.

Naaaah... as I'm well aware by direct experience: beauty it's at best a metastable state. Given enough impulses and pumping... and the system looses all the excitation and falls onto the ground state (ugly, that is). Empirically, seems like a rule that applies no matter the sex, religion, race, etc.

Uh, no (1)

Pretzalzz (577309) | about 3 months ago | (#46156199)

Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago is a horrible metric to judge politicians. Policies take a while to implement so a really bad first year that you've inherited could overwhelm the next 33.5 months. The economic cycle can overpower policies anyway. And there are other issues besides personal well-being which seems to over-focus on economic issues. 4 years is both too arbitrary a time frame and too short of a time frame.

Re:Uh, no (1)

fnj (64210) | about 3 months ago | (#46157279)

It is a fair point. Perhaps a better question is, "do you expect to be better off if the policies favored by this shithead are implemented? - compared to those of the preceding guy, or the new prospect's opponents".

Scientific political decision-making America-style (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 months ago | (#46156215)

I always vote for the candidate who has the nicest smile and mentions God the most.

Are you earning more since Reagan was elected? (1)

guanxi (216397) | about 3 months ago | (#46156233)

Ironically, income for most Americans has not increased since Reagan became President.

It is surprising that cutting taxes and reducing regulations for corporations and the wealthy, while undermining unions and cutting government services to everyone else, results in the wealthy getting wealthier and the rest standing still. Who could have imagined such an outcome?

When will the " trickle down [wikipedia.org]" that Reagan promised start happening? I feel like it could be any day now.

Re:Are you earning more since Reagan was elected? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 3 months ago | (#46156349)

I'll leave it to economists to debate whether or not "Reaganomics" had an effect one way or another on incomes, but your analysis seems shallow to me. First of all, it neglects the decade of horrendous economics that preceded him. Second, Reagan only served for 8 years. I've never seen any kind of chart showing a correlation between Reagan's policies and wage stagnation - I suspect he simply happened to be President while larger forces were at work.

Re:Are you earning more since Reagan was elected? (2, Informative)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 3 months ago | (#46156511)

Most of the GINI coefficient increase since Reagan [wikipedia.org] happened during the Clinton years - when the tech boom/information age started. Trickle down actually worked given the huge increase in median income experienced during the Reagan years [wikipedia.org]. From 1981 to 1989 median income went from ~$45K to ~$50.5K, a solid 10% increase over 8 years. It's increased up to ~$52K since then, a paltry 3% over 25 years.

Explain income disparity under Obama then, please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156515)

Income Gap Grows Wider (and Faster) [nytimes.com]

INCOME inequality in the United States has been growing for decades, but the trend appears to have accelerated during the Obama administration. One measure of this is the relationship between median and average wages.

The median wage is straightforward: it’s the midpoint of everyone’s wages. Interpreting the average, though, can be tricky. If the income of a handful of people soars while everyone else’s remains the same, the entire group’s average may still rise substantially. So when average wages grow faster than the median, as happened from 2009 through 2011, it means that lower earners are falling further behind those at the top.

One way to see the acceleration in inequality is to look at the ratio of average to median annual wages. From 2001 through 2008, during the George W. Bush administration, that ratio grew at 0.28 percentage point per year. From 2009 through 2011, the latest year for which the data is available, the ratio increased 1.14 percentage points annually, or roughly four times faster.

Is it really surprising that imposing massive new taxes and significant new regulations, supporting unions and expanding government like crazy makes it easier for those who already have money and power to accumulate even more money and power on the backs of everyone else?

Re:Are you earning more since Reagan was elected? (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 3 months ago | (#46157133)

We are also not any better off since Carter was elected. Looks like those liberal policies sure fucked us over. When will socialism start to work? I feel like it could be any day now.

Wow, oversimplifying a complex system was really easy

"Cure"? (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 3 months ago | (#46156297)

For example, some received information expressed as yearly income while others received the same information expressed as a yearly growth rate. The same information in a plot of steadily increasing average personal income over 3 years—$32,400, $33,100, $33,800—can also be expressed as a steadily decreasing rate of growth—3%, 2.3%, 2.1%. That did the trick. Just changing the units of the data was enough to cure voter fickleness. When economic trends were expressed as yearly income rather than rates of change, the subjects made accurate judgments. But if the same information was expressed as a change over time—the bias reappeared.

I'm not sure why they say that it "cured" voter fickleness. First of all, it seems to me that in both cases, voters are going along with the picture being painted by the statistics provided. You say, "income continues to rise," and it sounds good. You say, "income growth is slowing," and it sounds bad. The person responding to these statements isn't showing better judgement when they hear one statistic vs another. In both cases, they're dealing with the information uncritically. Outside of any context, it's not even clear which statistic provides a more accurate picture of the economic landscape.

Second, if the 'bias'-- which I'm not sure why it is a bias-- reappears when you provide different information, then it means that the voters continue to be 'fickle'.

How to fix it (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 3 months ago | (#46156313)

Neither politicians nor big media will do anything to solve it, they need that people keeps being dumb and manipulable, so they keep voting/buying/not complaining/etc, even if the country have no future that way. Is up to the people to try to educate themselves and others to know, recognize and try to avoid their own cognitive biases [wikipedia.org], because those are exploited every day.

Not to defend shortsightedness (1)

Derec01 (1668942) | about 3 months ago | (#46156359)

Let me play devil's advocate here. While we can ascribe that to "dumb voter shortsightedness", wouldn't it also be true to say that if you can ascribe economic performance to a president at all, their effect on things would be much more heavily weighted towards the recent past anyway?

Early term performance would likely be out of their hands, and my assumption would be that they want to get reelected and would try hard to eke out some benefit before election season. If you can't bring out the big performance before the election, perhaps you don't have anything to offer.

Of course, imagining that your choice of president has a greater effect on your wellbeing than state and local elections or larger economic trends is a bit weird to me anyway.

Alexander Fraser Tytler Misquotation (2)

Poisonous Drool (526798) | about 3 months ago | (#46156425)

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

Re:Alexander Fraser Tytler Misquotation (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | about 3 months ago | (#46157473)

Interesting thought. Can you think of ANY democracies that followed this particular path into dictatorship?

I can't.

Media controls society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46156979)

"But if the same information was expressed as a change over time—the bias reappeared."

Which means sheeple will vote based on their feelings and reactions to how information is portrayed (spin).

This is depressing. I don't see a solution - except that some (many) countries have figured it out and live well. Time for a move.

In other words - Math is hard (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about 3 months ago | (#46157111)

for those who do not comprehend the underlying data.

But if you put the numbers in units that people can relate to, it becomes something they can comprehend and make educated decisions.

That's not it... (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 months ago | (#46157161)

The world is complex and ever changing, nobody can with any real confidence say what four years with the "other guy" would have been like even in retrospect. Across electrions it's almost hopeless, each president starts under completely different circumstances and the global economy, technology and science, it all changes rapidly.

It's mostly a belief in whether this administration did better or worse than the alternative(s?) and more often than not on ideology about what the "right thing" is. Could the financial recession been handled better? Would it been handled worse? Could it have been avoided in the first place? Those who lean towards left say there should have been more regulation because it's a failure of the free market. Those who lean right say the regulation and bailouts was the problem because they didn't let the free market work. Nobody can prove the other side wrong, it'd be so much easier if we ever got the true answers.

For example, it's easy to have money "right now" even for a country, just go deeper in debt. Taxes stay low, services stay high, none of those unpopular tax hikes or cutbacks. Until shit hits the fan to smaller or greater degrees, at least. All this really tells you is that you better have bread and circus the last months leading up to an election, somehow that wisdom seems ancient. You dump shit on future generations and future politicians that start with a shit economy, but as long as you can keep shoveling it in front of you it's better than dealing with it.

An oversimplified line of thinking (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46157441)

The question asked by Reagan represents a dangerously short-sighted mindset. For example, it is possible to temporarily boost economic activity by lowering taxes and interest rates and/or increasing spending, but this is not without its dangers. For example, much of the apparent prosperity of the Bush Jr. years was a result of a completely unsustainable real estate bubble. If you follow this through to its logical conclusion, you can see why budget deficits have been the rule with the economy lurching from one bubble to another.

Aside from this, Reagan and Thatcher were lucky in that the development of oilfields in the North Sea, Alaska and elsewhere helped bring about a large reduction in oil prices. This probably would have happened regardless of who was in office, but the economic boost from this made them look better than they would have otherwise.

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