I received the following email:
I’m a freelance journalist working on a piece for The Daily Beast (you can see my past work here) tentatively titled “How To Be A Smarter Campaign Consumer.” The basic idea: Now that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the GOP primary and we’re set to enter the thick of the general presidential race, the frequent spin, misinformation, and misinterpretation that American voters face are all about to ramp up considerably. Pollsters, pundits, and self-styled “analysts” and “strategists” will spew off about the campaigns with very little accuracy or accountability, propping up the many misconceptions about politics and public opinion that seem to define our political discourse.
So I’m curious: What is the one insight from political science, psychology, or behavioral economics that you most wish the hypothetical “median American voter” knew, that would most contribute to his or her ability to swim safely through the torrent of nonsense about to be unleashed? And if there’s a related, readable academic paper or article, a link to that would be great as well. (To get a sense of the sort of insights I have in mind, one example would be the surprising malleability of polling responses, the idea that slight changes in wording lead to significantly different responses. Most people don’t know this, and instead see Americans’ views on certain issues as stable and coherent in ways that they don’t appear to be.)
Sorry for the form email, but I’m sending this out to a large number of researchers. I’m happy to chat about this article or answer any questions you have about it if you want to get in touch via this email address [email@example.com].
If any of you have any ideas, feel free to send them. I don’t know if the median American voter reads the Daily Beast, but I suppose it’s possible! My only comment is that there’s a reason for all the horse-race coverage of political campaigns.