2011 July 19 Tuesday
Ignorant TV Watchers Vote On Looks

No surprise here.

Using data from the 2006 U.S. Senate and governors’ races, the study shows that for every 10-point increase in the advantage a candidate has when rated by voters on his or her looks, there will be a nearly 5 percent increase in the vote for that candidate by the uninformed voters who are most firmly planted on their couches. Yet that same advantage in looks is worth only about a 1 percent increase among low-information voters who watch little television.

“It’s not that this effect influences all voters exactly the same way,” says Chappell Lawson, an associate professor of political science at MIT and a co-author of the study. “Voters who watch a lot of television but don’t really know much about the candidates, besides how they look, are particularly susceptible.”

Lawson and Gabriel Lenz — who worked on the study as an associate professor of political science at MIT and is now at the University of California, Berkeley — detail the results in a new paper, “Looking the Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens to Vote Based on Candidates’ Appearance,” published this month in the American Journal of Political Science.

So if the less informed TV watchers vote on looks what about the less informed who don't watch TV? How do they decide? The sound of a name? What their friends say? What they see on Facebook? Bumper stickers?

Will we witness the rise of voting systems where less informed or less intelligent people don't get to vote? How about competency qualifications for jurors so that incompetent jurors do not let off guilty people? I know smart people who've served on juries with incompetent people. Their stories about the deliberations do not inspire confidence in the criminal justice system.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 July 19 10:21 PM  Democracy Failure

Black Death said at July 20, 2011 5:25 AM:

I've always felt that we should restrict the franchise to those who are net contributors. People who pay no income tax should not be allowed to vote. People who live off government largess (those who receive food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc.) should not be allowed to vote. Government employees should not be allowed to vote (except for the military). In general, the parasite classes should not be allowed to vote themselves bigger pieces of the pie when they have contributed nothing to its making. Only those paying the bills should be allowed to say how their money is spent.

slumlord said at July 20, 2011 6:31 AM:

As Mencken said, in a democracy the voters know what they want and they deserve to get it good and hard.

AnonyMouse said at July 20, 2011 11:30 AM:

"As Mencken said, in a democracy the voters know what they want and they deserve to get it good and hard."

Um... I don't deserve this shit, thank you.

Ross N said at July 21, 2011 6:02 AM:

Bill Clinton’s telecommunication act of 1996 allowed media cross ownership: From Wikipedia:
“These businesses can include broadcast and cable television, radio, newspaper, book publishing, video games, and various online entities. Much of the debate over media cross-ownership in the United States has for many years focused specifically on the ownership of broadcast stations, cable stations, newspapers and websites. Meaning, that when one organization owned any two of these media outlets, that organization was involved in "cross-ownership."

Since the act, large cross linked corporations have consolidated their hold on parts of the media.
My contention is that intelligent people will tend to be pro-active, and search for their information. Hence the internet is a natural resource for them. Less intelligent, low thinking people will be more passive and want to be stimulated.

The media consolidation seems strongest on TV, then less so on Radio, and then finally to the least consolidation on the Internet.

Steve Sailer says that a direct computer link to the brain may be the end of civilization. The base instincts will be constantly stimulated, and the sex drive, etc., will be sated artificially. Maybe there is a corollary here to Sailer’s thinking. Perhaps lower thinking people will stop reproducing first, while those with more developed frontal cortexes will be able to overcome the base stimulation.

bbartlog said at July 21, 2011 6:29 AM:

'Government employees should not be allowed to vote (except for the military).'
Mmm, so all government employees *except* the hallowed military are part of the 'parasite classes'? The (city-employed) guy who picked the trash up every week at my old house did a lot more for me than the guys dropping bombs on Libya. And somehow I'm guessing you probably would also allow police to vote.

Ritchie said at July 22, 2011 10:44 AM:

The problem is not government employees. The problems is politicians, big capitalist owners and the religious clergy-ministry. They just keep getting fatter and fatter, while you keep sweating and sweating.

WJ said at July 22, 2011 8:25 PM:

** "The (city-employed# guy who picked the trash up every week at my old house did a lot more for me than the guys dropping bombs on Libya." **

Which simply begs the question: why the hell is the guy picking up the trash employed by the city?

I have to back Black Death's equity voting system. People who contribute more to society should have more say. We accept the concept of "one man, one vote" unquestioningly only because it has been bashed into our brains from an early age as the only "fair" way of doing things. But in the commercial sphere #most# people innately understand that those who have contributed more to a business #i.e., by investing more# should have a greater say in its operation and a greater share of the profits. An immigrant from Mexico who has lived here only 7 years and was just naturalized yesterday should not have the same say as someone born here, whose ancestors fought in World War II and the War of Independence. A person who dodged the draft or went "conscientious objector" should not have as much say as a Vietnam veteran. A person who couldn't tell you in what half of what century the Civil War occurred should not have the same say as someone who knows his history. Fir that matter, why shouldn't parents get to cast extra votes on behalf of their minor children?

Of course it's highly unlikely that such a system would ever come into being, in this or any other country. But until democtracy takes into account the varied contributions #or lack thereof# of individuals to our success as a nation I doubt we'll ever avoid the problem of government turning into a form of organized theft.

bbartlog said at July 23, 2011 6:30 AM:

Trash is often handled as a public service because there are genuine problems with private competition as a solution (notably the ease of dumping). However, it can certainly be handled privately as well. The point was rather first and foremost that I don't think the trash man can be accused of being part of some 'parasite class', inasfar as he provides a genuine and valuable service; that remains true even if we accept that private trash collection might be preferable.
As for the vietnam veterans, what did they contribute to society? They sacrificed and suffered much, but what came of it? I believe that the world changed with the advent of the hydrogen bomb, such that our safety against aggression by other nations is now safeguarded by our godlike destructive powers, and not by the willingness of our young men to fight and die on the front lines. So I no longer see the point of venerating soldiers; in fact it's dangerous to the extent that it enables a more authoritarian society.

Black Death said at July 24, 2011 9:13 AM:

Yes, the trash guy performs a useful function and, yes, it should be privatized. The trash guy picking up trash isn't a problem. But when he unites with other municipal employees to form unions which then pressure politicians to compensate them with ridiculous wage and benefit packages, they become parasites. This is the genesis of many of the financial problems that state and municipal governments are now facing. Employees deserve fair compensation, but there's no way that ordinary government workers deserve six-figure salaries and benefit packages. This makes them parasites.

Randall Parker said at July 24, 2011 9:26 PM:

Regards equity voting systems: How to measure net contribution? A large portion of Medicare costs come in the last 12 months of life. Someone who is healthy at age 66 and on Medicare might not be generating any costs for government at all. But at age 78 their medical bill could exceed everything they've ever paid into Medicare. So Medicare is a hard thing to fit into a measurement of net contribution. I think we'd need to price Medicare like insurance rather than by cost per year for each recipient.

One problem is generational. Some (though by no means all) people increase their earning power with age. So older people have more stuff on average and older yet not retired people have more earning power. If older people have outsized voting power then their own shorter term time horizons (since they have fewer years left to live) will tend to bias political decision making against longer term needs and against younger generations.

On the other hand, kids are ignorant fools. So there's an argument for not letting anyone below 21 or 25 the right to vote. The argument becomes less compelling if the military draft ever gets reinstated. But the odds of that look remote.

Of course, if we cut out the vote for those collecting Social Security and Medicare that'd greatly cut the current political bias toward older age groups.

WJ said at July 24, 2011 10:15 PM:

"How to measure net contribution?"

I'm definitely not thinking in terms of income. Millionaires and billionaires don't need extra votes to tilt the political system their way. Money already has a voice via campaign contributions.

I don't really think there is a precise way of calculating one's contribution to society, but "one man, one vote" is as far from precise as you can get. Theoretically, grant every adult a certain number of base votes, then extra votes for having minor children, being a military veteran, not using major welfare programs, passing a routine civics quiz (by definition also a literacy test), and for each grandparent born in the United States. This would skew the voting base back towards the middle because 21 year olds and 71 year olds don't tend to have minor children, and because most seniors are on Medicare. It would reward people for military service and for being well informed. It would reward people for having some vested interest in the success of this country. It would especially limit the say of welfare parasites.

Of course the government would have to have the data to tabulate the number of votes each person's entitled to, but, given the vast trove of data the government already has on us, I think people who would bitch about the privacy issue are delusional.

And yes, I understand there's a bit of the crackpot in all of this. Under current conditions such a system has zero likelihood of passage.

But let us be blunt: our country is on the verge of failure. Unless technology provides some salvation, the possibility that we will emerge from this century in some recognizable form is diminishing rapidly. If that happens, the ideas for how to build a better country need to be floating around, ready to be enacted. Democracy cannot survive when the irresponsible have the same amount of say as the well-behaved.

no i don't said at July 26, 2011 8:59 AM:

The thing is that a lot of people nowadays are attracted to weird looks in men. Take for example the popularity of Tiger Woods, who has the soft face of a yelled-at kid, who is about to cry... Or take Owen Wilson's super-spoilt yuppie-kid looks and attitude. I wouldn't be surprised if either one of them ran for office.

What ever happened to men looking and acting like men and likewise for women?? Hey how about dumb-numb-looking Briney Spears for govenor whom so many people consider to be so beautiful...(!?) Rasin-faced confused George Bush got to be president...

It's not that they were born with ugly faces; they acquire them through acting weird, thinking weird, living weird, eating weird, accepting weird, learning weird, becomming weird.

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