Economics

Get Out the (Ignorant) Vote

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reason contributor David Harsanyi at the Denver Post takes a look at why it might not lead to optimal results encouraging everyone to vote…

[T]he good folks at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press recently measured the political acumen of more than 3,000 adults and found that we're equally uninformed and both ridiculously ill-equipped to vote.

Participants in this ruthlessly useless poll were asked three relatively simple questions: 1. Name the controlling party of the U.S. House of Representatives. 2. Name the U.S. secretary of state. 3. Name Great Britain's prime minister.

If you answered "the defendants," "that neocon chick" and "J. Gordon Brown" you're a member of an elite 18 percent of Americans who hit it on the nose.

……it is interesting to note that viewers of Fox News' partisan slugfest, Hannity & Colmes, scored only 2 percent below those smarty pants who listen to NPR.

In fact, larger numbers of habitual listeners of Rush Limbaugh than erudite readers of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair were able to explain who is in charge of Congress.

But Harsanyi also celebrates what basic political ignorance might say about Americans as a people–that is, as real human beings, not "civic participants."

…though it's difficult for some choice citizens to believe, not everyone is captivated by government, nor do they stake their existence on its success. This attitude doesn't make them apathetic; it makes them normal.

Last year Bryan Caplan analyzed the economic biases of voters, who choose to be not only rationally ignorant, but rationally irrational, when it comes to politics and economics in this October 2007 reason cover story.

I stand up for non-voting.