Ann Althouse. She's from Wisconsin. She has a blog -- she's had it for a while -- and she wrote a blurb last night, a post, about two political science professors who have recently discovered the term "low-information voter" and sought to define it.He was pointing at this post of mine from yesterday, where I criticized the professors for characterizing Trump voters as "low-information" voters. I said that Rush Limbaugh has used the term for years "to refer to the people who are accepting the view of the world presented in the mainstream media (which he sees as thoroughly biased in the liberal direction)."
I thought polisci professors ought to be informed about what's on Rush Limbaugh's show, and I made the wisecrack that if "you're writing about American politics," and you don't know what's on Rush's show, "then you yourself are low-information."
Rush said my observation was "very kind" and "astute," but as he went on, I could see that he didn't really agree with the way I'd defined the term I'd given him credit for coining. In fact, ironically, the definition he proceeded to give matched up pretty well with the polisci profs' definition!
The polisci profs — Richard Fording and Sanford Schram — had said:
Low information voters are those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues.That part of their definition fits with what Rush said on his show today when he got very specific about what he meant by the term. He said he coined the term back in 2008:
There was a TIME Magazine story that literally said a voluminous number of Obama voters never followed the news. And I said, "Well, there you go!" (laughing) I mean, makes perfect sense. So low-information voters began as low-information voters. They don't know anything! They don't follow the news. They're pure addicts of pop culture... but they don't have the slightest knowledge of politics. And they haven't been taught much about it, and that's what low-information voters are....So that's different from what I said, which was that they do listen to the news, but — in Rush's view — they don't get enough information because the mainstream news has so much liberal bias. Rush is actually pretty close to what Fording and Schram said, it's just that the professors looked at the people whose lack of information coincided with liking Trump and Rush was looking at the people whose lack of information coincided with liking Obama.
If you lack information but you vote, what is your vote based on? The professors said:
Our research finds that Trump has attracted a disproportionate (and unprecedented) number of “low-information voters” to his campaign. Furthermore, these voters are more likely to respond to emotional appeals — whether about the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama. They are the ideal constituency for a candidate like Trump.Now, Trump won. So did Obama. Maybe elections are won by whoever does best at reeling in the LIVs.
I wonder if Fording and Schram have applied their science to the 2008 election. If they did, maybe they would write that their research finds that Obama has attracted a disproportionate number of low-information voters. That's what the old TIME Magazine article seems to have said.
And then wouldn't it also be that those voters too were swayed by emotional appeals? Fording and Schram list some emotional issues they think may have worked to bring LIVs to Trump — "the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama."
But you could make a comparable list of emotional issues that brought LIVs to Obama — hating the war, fearing climate change, and the thrill of the first African-American President.