Five Myths of the Rational Voter
By Arnold Kling
by most measures, voters today possess the same level of political knowledge as their parents and grandparents, and in some categories, they score lower. In the 1950s, only 10 percent of voters were incapable of citing any ways in which the two major parties differed, according to Thomas E. Patterson of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who leads the Pew-backed Vanishing Voter Project. By the 1970s, that number had jumped to nearly 30 percent.
Here’s what makes these numbers deplorable — and, in fact, almost incomprehensible: Education levels are far higher today than they were half a century ago, when social scientists first began surveying voter knowledge about politics. (In 1940, six in ten Americans hadn’t made it past the eighth grade.)
I believe it is the case that in cross-sections, education is correlated with civic knowledge. Evidently, one does not see that correlation over time. Quite a puzzle, unless one thinks of educational attainment as reflecting aptitude, not acquisition of knowledge.
The piece, which uses the “five myths” format to trash the voting public, appears in the Washington Post.
Somehow, I think that it is apropos to point to Half Sigma’s armchair IQ test of Sarah Palin.
Both of Sarah’s parents are school teachers, the quintessential middle class jobs, but Sarah has clearly sunk to prole. Her husband hasn’t graduated from college, Track is not going to college, and Bristol gives no indication of being college-bound. Track getting arrested, and Bristol getting pregnant at 17 are markers of being prole rather than middle class.
Sinking in class below one’s parents tends to indicate having a lower IQ than one’s parents, which is why I have a hard time believing that Sarah’s IQ is any higher than 110.
I admit that the journalism degree from Idaho is not a credential that appeals to me. On the other hand, I don’t care for Harvard Law types. I can’t think of anyone from Cal Tech or MIT in public life, at least in this country.