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Editorial Commentary: Ken Ciboski

Voter Ignorance Will Likely Remain

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The latest survey asking people about their political party identification finds that 42 percent of individuals who are of voting age say that they are Independents. We also know that “pure” independents do not exist in large numbers. “Pure” independents are those who study in detail the issues and the backgrounds of candidates and their positions on issues. Many people will not do so because the payoff would not be great when voters think that their vote will not affect the election outcome. Studies show, too, that those who say they are independents are actually party leaners who vote consistently in elections for candidates of the party toward which they lean. Studies also demonstrate that voters think that the candidate they support has the same stance on issues that they do when in fact this is often not so. This was demonstrated when many Democrats voted for Eisenhower in two presidential elections.

A similar phenomenon may be working in Donald Trump’s favor. One reason for his strong lead for the Republican nomination could be the widespread ignorance of voters that characterizes American democracy. A high proportion of those who support Trump have relatively low educational backgrounds, and they are probably not aware of his history of taking a liberal stance on issues such as health care, taxes, and government spending. A recent ABC/Washington Post survey found that 40 percent of Republican leaning voters without a college degree support Trump. In contrast, only 19 percent of those with college degrees support him for the nomination.

Whatever the outcome of the nomination process, voter ignorance will likely remain. Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economics professor who crafted the Obamacare program, said it became law by manipulating the “stupidity of the American voter.” In addition, President Obama told the American people repeatedly that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” A poll showed that 64 percent of Americans believed him. It turned out to be untrue.