Thursday, December 08, 2005

Who Knows?

I was looking up some stuff on Roves' lawyer and I found this sorta by accident. It is long but is worth reading for perspective. I think we all know much of this but it is really well put together.
Here's a sample:

When I look at this map, it looks sort of like an echo of the Civil War. Some of that is bound to be coincidence, but are there other things that lead back to that time that you can see coming through to today?

It is true that the map bears some resemblance to a map you could have drawn in the late 19th century. The only thing is that the colors would have been reversed. The areas that used to be Democratic are now Republican and vice versa. The ideologies of the parties have changed. Woodrow Wilson was an out-and-out racist, and T.R., by contrast, and Warren Harding, of all people, were extremely good on race for their time.

What are some specific issues that have shown dramatic movement after deliberation?
We did a deliberative poll in connection with the British general election in 1997, the election that first brought Tony Blair to power. In the before/after contrast, the people who went through the deliberative poll emerged about 10 percent less likely to support the Tories and 10 percent less likely to support Labor, and about 20 more likely to support the Lib Dems, the third party. It was very understandable when you looked closely at the data.
Originally, when they were first interviewed, most people didn't know where the Lib Dems stood on those issues. But if you looked at where people identified themselves as standing, the Lib Dems were in fact closer to most voters than either the Tories or Labor on most of the issues. What happened is that people learned where the Lib Dems stood, realized that it was to their liking, and that's why you see that significant movement. That's a very big movement in the context of a high-salience national election.

I love that Lib Dem thing! That that would lead the wingnuts to a froth!

We know how little information they must rest on from ordinary surveys in which people are asked about factual questions, and it is absolutely astonishing what those people don't know.....
In the mid-1960s, at the height of the Cold War, a national random sample was given a list of countries and asked to say whether each was or wasn't in NATO. If you put together the percentage of those who said they didn't know and the percentage who got it wrong, more than 60 percent of the public did not know that the Soviet Union was not in NATO. ......

National Election Studies [a major research center based at the University of Michigan ] has had a survey every year since 1952. Since some point in the late '60s or early '70s, they have put policy questions on seven-point scales. An example: Some people think that the government in Washington should see to it that everybody has a job and a certain standard of living. Suppose these people are at Point 1. Other people think that the government should just let everybody get ahead on his or her own. These people are at Point 7. Point 4 is exactly in between. They're then asked to which side of the scale the major parties should be placed.
On that question, 30 or 40 percent will admit right off the bat they don't know — pretty impressive considering that this is one of the major dimensions that has long divided the parties. If you count the person right who places the Republicans more to the laissez-faire side of the scale and wrong if he puts the parties at the same point or puts them at the wrong side, or simply says he doesn't know, what you find is the average number correct hovers right around 50 percent, right about what you'd get by flipping a coin.
The knowledge gap between most people and people like political commentators and congressional aides is just astronomical. .....................

If you give people more information, their views often change, and they don't often change equally in both directions. If it always turned out to be the same as the existing public is in its normal state of inattention and ignorance, then there'd be no point in deliberative polling. But that's not the same. There's a certain normative value to discovering what the public *would think if it actually thought about the issues or knew something more about them.

Please comment


Blogger The Donkey said...

I think the last paragraph says the most:

"Adlai Stevenson was, of course, a very articulate man and was giving a speech during one of his runs for the presidency in the 1950s. A woman came gushing up to him at the end of the speech and said, “Oh, governor, that was the most marvelous, eloquent speech. You get the vote of every thinking person!” To which he was supposed to have replied, shaking his head sadly, “Ma'am, it's not enough. I need a majority.”

The majority do not think too much, it is unlikely they will anytime soon. It is easier to just say, "911 changed everything"

11:24 PM, December 11, 2005  

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