Political reporting isn’t looking too good right now, what between the usual primary surrealism and the recent utterance by NY Times Ombuddy Arthur Brisbane. A recent Pew poll details how little voters know about very basic political facts:
Many voters do not know basic facts about the Republican candidates running for president or the early primary calendar. While a sizable majority (69%) knows that Newt Gingrich served as speaker of the House, only about half (53%) identify Massachusetts as the state where Mitt Romney served as governor.
Fewer than half of registered voters (45%) identify South Carolina as the state with the next primary after Iowa and New Hampshire (the survey was conducted Jan. 4-8, before New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary). And while Ron Paul fared well in the early GOP contests, just 44% of voters identify Paul as the Republican candidate who opposes U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted Jan. 4-8, 2012 among 1,507 adults and 1,165 registered voters, finds even among Republican voters, many are unable to identify the state where Romney served as governor and are unfamiliar with Paul’s stance on Afghanistan.
Keep in mind, Romney’s supposed great weakness is that he’s from The Liberal State of Massachusetts™, and Paul’s supposed contribution to our august political discussion is that he’s anti-war. Kinda puts the kabosh on what Glenn Greenwald, in his statements about Ron Paul, has being blathering about, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, political reporter Chris Cillizza, at The Washington Post and who desperately needs to be whacked with the clue stick, scribbles something like a jeremiad except that it’s stupid:
Sigh. (Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised given how Jay Leno has built an entire segment around how little the American public knows about, well, anything.)
What the Pew numbers should do is serve as a reminder for all political analysts and political junkies that not everyone — in fact, almost no one — is like us.
The average voter is a low-information decider, making his or her choices about candidates based on often times incomplete or just plain wrong facts.
The analysis of political races — from the presidential race on down — often assumes a level of involvement and information that the average voter simply lacks.
Humbling? Yes. Important to remember when talking about how voters think and who they will ultimately choose? Yes.
(Dude, thank Tebow, most people are not like you. But I digress)
Does it ever occur to Cillizza and his colleagues that they themselves, as people whose job it is to convey information, might be in some teensy-weensy way responsible for voters making “choices about candidates based on often times incomplete or just plain wrong facts?” That this failure, in part, must be laid at your door?
Probably not. And this is yet another reason why you can’t have nice things.