On Voter Competence (Series in Political Psychology)

Voters’ Partisan Responses to Politicians’ Immoral Behavior
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Two broad set of dynamics are at play. On the one hand, individual differences determine how information is accessed and processed: different personality traits set incentives and hurdles for information processing, the availability of information heuristics and the motivation to treat complex information determine the preference between easy and good decisions, and partisan preferences establish boundaries for information processing and selective exposure.

Keywords: political information processing , individual differences , cognition , motivated reasoning , election campaigns , negativity , emotions , ambivalence , correct voting , political decision making. Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.

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Voting and Not Voting: The Principal Explanations

Oxford Research Encyclopedias Politics. Search within subject: Select Read More. Why are most people politically incompetent? Being a competent voter is a time-consuming process. Acquiring political information requires basic understanding of political and economic concepts. Therefore, even if an average voter regularly watches news and presidential debates, reads newspapers and political platforms of candidates, it is unlikely that she will completely understand crucial socio-economic and political information.


Common sense. This is particularly clear in the case of Elexx77 who repeatedly reflects on the state of her knowledge: "I gained more knowledge about the topic"; "our knowledge is very limited and we need more information"; "we checked our knowledge about politics"; "I already knew the main things". Unable to display preview. WorldCat is the world's largest library catalog, helping you find library materials online. The American Voter argued that very few voters use ideological thinking to guide their vote choice, suggesting this as evidence of an impoverishment of political thought. This is a very interesting finding and suggests that moral foundations are maybe not as innate and foundational as might be supposed see also, Connors [ ] on political values.

Moreover, studying basic political science and economy, and acquiring relevant information in order to be a knowledgeable voter requires time and effort. In addition, a competent voter has to change her political position on specific issues when she finds out that empirical works prove her beliefs wrong. In other words, a competent voter has to reject dogmatism by regularly accommodating her political position to science and empirical facts.

Political Psychology of International Relations MSc

The problem is that first, most voters do not have basic knowledge on political science and economy; thus, initially they need to learn some fundamental concepts in order to make sense of political information. For example, approximately 20 percent of Americans recognize basic terms such as Bill of Rights, three branches of government, and only 10 percent of American voters could give an acceptable definition to liberalism and conservatism Neuman , pp.

Most voters do not even know with whom their country is at war. In addition, acquiring factual knowledge about politics is necessary for democratic deliberation. For instance, when we discuss poverty, we may reasonably disagree about the causes and consequences of poverty; however, it is important that we all know what the definition of poverty is according to the federal government. Many people may oppose to a law because of their untrue or misleading knowledge about facts and details.

For instance, 59 percent of Americans believe that the U.

On voter competence

More examples can be given to prove my argument that many decisions of citizens would be different if they were fully informed or, at least, if they were aware of political and economic facts of particular issues. Second, most voters are not willing to spend their time on learning politics because political knowledge does not pay off for an individual. Citizens do not have enough incentive to be a knowledgeable voters since they know that their individual votes virtually have zero effect on national election results Brennan , 31; Landsburg According to the U.

Census Bureau, in , voting-age population in the United States was more than million Beureau Even if we take into consideration that the turnout was just Although the latter is some kind of epistocracy, the former is perfectly consistent with a democracy. In addition to statistical insignificance of an individual vote, there is no punishment or a fine for ignorant voters.

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Incompetent voters, unlike incompetent drivers, have no reason to fear from personal punishment if they impose a risk on their fellow citizens by voting badly and carelessly. Because individual votes have almost no decisive influence on a national election outcome, it is quite rational for a citizen to remain ignorant about political and economic situation of their country.

Edited by Leonie Huddy, David O. Sears, and Jack S. Levy

On Voter Competence (Series in Political Psychology): Medicine & Health Science Books @ ozonyberelyq.tk Editorial Reviews. Review. "Few topics receive as much attention from scholars and pundits as voter competence. Goren has produced a seminal book that will.

Under these circumstances, it is rational for voters not to spend their time to study politics unless they believe it is their moral obligation to be informed voters Brennan , In the recent decades, political polarization has been rising in the United States.

It seems that nowadays, it is almost impossible to bridge the gap between the Republican and the Democratic parties.

An optimistic view on political polarization states that the more people listen to the arguments of their rivals, the more they will understand each other. In other words, listening to the other side will lessen the acuteness of current polarization. However, this view is not supported by empirical findings.

For example, it is a known fact that most people prefer to watch and listen to friendly media channels, which confirm, rather than challenge, their preexisting political beliefs. Thus, consuming counterattitudinal news may lead people to understand and tolerate the views of others. Nevertheless, empirical findings suggest that this optimistic assumption does not have enough evidence to support its claim.

People are more likely to radicalize their political views in order to resist the information of their rival political groups. Resistance to the counter arguments is not irrational.


Deliberately, voters avoid scientific facts and statistical data that do not support their already shaped belief systems. Political psychology explains us that we should not be surprised when, for example, before the elections, more than half of American voters believed that crime rate had been increasing since while the official data showed that property and violent crimes had decreased 23 percent and 19 percent respectively Gramlich And the last presidential election was not an exception.

Bad news for democracy is that most voters are influenced by emotions rather than rational deliberation. Noam Chomsky, an American public intellectual, argues that the U. One can object that average voters do not have to know much about politics and economics. If they have enough knowledge on issues that influence their lives, such as agriculture, mining, education etc. Moreover, theories of issue voting and retrospective voting assume that the voters vote according to positions of political candidates on certain domestic and foreign policy issues. However, as we are going to see, empirically speaking, all these assumptions are simply wrong.

Even in the minimalist conception of democracy or, in other words, in an electoral democracy, voters need to know who their representatives in the Congress are, and, what these representatives voted for in the House and the Senate.

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