Low information voters and cognitive dissonance


PogoOne of the biggest problems confronting America today is that its citizens do not take their civic duty to be informed citizens seriously.

This has been demonstrated ad nauseam by late night comedians like Jay Leno and his “Jay Walking” segment, where passersby are asked questions about familiar politicians and the issues of the day, and these citizens invariably demonstrate their profound ignorance.

Of course, part of the problem is the massive GOPropaganda noise machine of the conservative media entertainment complex, whose job it is to mislead and to misinform. The iron triangle of the conservative media entertainment complex is Ignorance – Fear – Hate. It is not to inform.

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll demonstrates the cognitive dissonance of low information voters. Steve Benen explains, Unpopular parties can still prevail:

First, consider the news Dems will be eager to hear. The public generally agrees with Democrats on the major issues of the day — immigration, minimum wage, health care, and marriage equality — and on more general topics such as compromise, economic inequality, how best to reduce the deficit, and the value of social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security. The same poll found Democrats are more popular than Republicans and more in line with voters’ priorities.

Then consider the news Democrats won’t like at all.

Those stances among voters have not translated into support for the president’s party, as 42 percent say they will back Republicans in November, and 39 percent indicate that they will back Democrats, a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

I imagine Democratic officials would find this quite frustrating. They enjoy the edge on pretty much every possible question, right up until poll respondents were asked who they intend to vote for — and the answer is, the more unpopular party, which the mainstream disagrees with on nearly everything, is the one with more support.

Of course, it leads to a fairly obvious question: if Republicans are more unpopular; voters disagree with them on nearly everything; the GOP has no accomplishments or agenda to speak of; and they’re responsible for the ridiculous government shutdown just a few months ago, how is it that they have the edge over Democrats when it comes to the midterm elections?

The obvious answer is that voting isn’t always rational – trying to make sense of folks’ political decision-making process can be an incredibly frustrating experience, regardless of party or ideology.

But more substantively, looking at this new poll in particular, there’s also reason to believe voters are unsatisfied with the status quo and they’re blaming President Obama – even if they agree with him on the issues that matter most; even if it’s congressional Republicans blocking the policy agenda the American mainstream wants to see implemented.

This has long been part of the GOP calculus. Many voters have no real sense of how federal policymaking works and have no use for things like filibusters or discharge petitions. Much of the country has no idea who’s in the majority of which chamber and/or whether there’s a division of power on Capitol Hill.

What they do know is that Washington is a dysfunctional mess in which nothing is getting done. The American mainstream may not know who, exactly, to blame and why, but they seem inclined to blame the president because, well, he’s the president.

Why would voters be prepared to vote for the party they don’t like and don’t agree with? As Walt Kelly said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”