Informed Voters Choose Worse

From Time:

Political scientists Richard Lau at Rutgers and David Redlawsk at the University of Iowa have developed four models of how people actually pick candidates.  No partisan or demographic group is predisposed to a particular model, and a voter might use different strategies for different contests. …  More than 70% of the time, voters end up checking the box for the candidate who shares their views. …
Passive Voter:  You don’t look for facts about the candidates, other than their party affiliation. …
Frugal Voter:  You learn the candidates’ stands only on topics you really care about, ignoring all else. …
Intuitive Voter: You seek only enough information to reach a decision. … the process appears to be almost unconscious. …
Rational Voter: You actively seek as much information as possible about all candidates, consider the positives and negatives and evaluate them against your personal interests.

  • Because you learn so much about both sides, this strategy is highly likely to lead to a vote across party lines.
  • This strategy is also the most likely to result in a incorrect choice – picking a candidate who does not reflect your views. Researchers think that many people can’t process all they learn and simply become confused.

Source: How Voters Decide: Information Processing During Election Campaigns, by Richard R. Lau and David P. Redlawsk 2007.

Got that? Voters who try to learn more than just a few things end up less able to pick candidates who share their views.  So either humans just aren’t capable of supporting a more informed democracy, or our most "informed" voters aren’t really trying to make a good choice.  Apparently for them, voter information isn’t about voting policy. 

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