I don’t understand all these bleeting appeals to get out and vote. Could someone please answer this question for me: if people are ignorant about the pressing issues of the day, the principles of individual liberty upon which this nation was founded, or the basic structure and function of our government, then why in the hell do we want these boobs casting votes that affect all of us?
Oh wait, I can hear the whining and caterwauling now, “Hey, Samurai, you’re too cynical about people!” Ok, how ’bout some numbers? Warning: the following contains factual information, including statistics, and a TV-talking head is NOT supplied to inject this information directly into that void between your ears. You have to actually read it…just like you would a ballot.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS, UNBELIEVABLE NEWS
by James W. Harris
New Study: Shocking Voter Ignorance
A new study by the libertarian Cato Institute indicates that a shockingly large
number of U.S. voters are almost totally ignorant about the issues and
candidates they vote on.
“Overall, close to one-third of Americans can be categorized as ‘know-nothings’
almost completely ignorant of relevant political information,” writes Ilya
Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, in “When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss:
How Political Ignorance Threatens Democracy.”
“Most of the time,” Somin notes,” only bare majorities know which party has
control of the Senate, some 70 percent cannot name either of their state’s
senators and the vast majority cannot name any congressional candidate in their
district at the height of a campaign.”
Overall, voters tend to be “abysmally ignorant of even very basic political
information… the sheer depth of most individual voters’ ignorance is shocking to
observers not familiar with the research.”
A few examples from many in the report:
- The Patriot Act? What’s that? Three-fourths of Americans say they know little
or nothing about it. 58 percent say they’ve heard “nothing” or “not much” about
- Seventy percent don’t know about the $500 billion new drug benefit added this
year to Medicare, which Somin describes as “probably the most significant
domestic legislation passed during the Bush administration.”
- A majority cannot make even a rough estimate of how many Americans soldiers
have been killed in Iraq.
- 61 percent believe that there has been a net loss of U.S. jobs in 2004.
- Over 60 per cent don’t know that, during President Bush’s term, there has
been an explosion in domestic spending (about 25 percent above previous levels)
that has enormously increased the national debt.
- Last year, 58 percent of Americans could not name a single federal Cabinet
And such voter ignorance is, alas, nothing new:
- In 1964, at the height of Cold War tensions, only 38 percent of the public
knew that the Soviet Union was not a member of NATO.
- In 1994, after Republicans took control of Congress under the
highly-publicized leadership of Rep. Newt Gingrich, 57 percent of Americans said they’d never
heard of Gingrich, despite the avalanche of press coverage.
- In 1996, 67 percent couldn’t name thei
r congressman, and only 26 percent knew
that senators serve six-year terms.
- In the 2002 elections, only 3
2 percent of voters knew that the Republican
Party controlled the House.
In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free,
in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Looking at the grave threats to liberty now facing America, one can only
conclude Jefferson was right.
(Source: Cato Institute study: