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Is An Uninformed Vote Better Than No Vote? 1048

Posted by Cliff
from the voter-responsibility dept.
ras_b asks: "I don't pay attention to politics at all, and so I will not be voting in today's elections. My family has been telling me that this is a mistake and I should vote anyway, partly because I have slightly conservative views which agrees with their political outlook. My reasoning is that since I am totally uninformed, I shouldn't vote. I don't want to vote Republican or Democrat, only to find out later I totally disagree with something a candidate stands for. So, here's my dilemma and my question: Is an uninformed vote better than no vote?" This issue is touched upon in a posting by Ezra Klein, of the The American Prospect, who disagrees, arguing against a similar assertion by Greg Mankiw, from a suppressed Fortune article. Greg says: "Sometimes...the most responsible thing a person can do on election day is stay at home ... If you really don't know enough to cast an intelligent vote, you should be eager to let your more informed neighbors make the decision." What do you think?
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Is An Uninformed Vote Better Than No Vote?

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  • by justkarl (775856) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:35PM (#16757707) Homepage
    Informed-ness is in the eye of the beholder.
    • "I don't want to vote Republican or Democrat, only to find out later I totally disagree with something a candidate stands for."

      Odds are, you will never agree with any candidate's views 100% of the time, unless you are the candidate. Even then, you won't agree 100% of the time, judging from past politicians.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yali (209015)

        Odds are, you will never agree with any candidate's views 100% of the time, unless you are the candidate. Even then, you won't agree 100% of the time, judging from past politicians.

        Let me add that odds are you will agree with one candidate more than the other(s). Voting isn't about getting everything you want on every single issue. That doesn't happen in a democracy -- you'll have to become dictator of your own nation to realize that little fantasy. Voting is about moving the country in a more positive dir

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dircha (893383)
          "Voting isn't about getting everything you want on every single issue. That doesn't happen in a democracy -- you'll have to become dictator of your own nation to realize that little fantasy."

          Your snide remark is incorrect. To get your way all the time you must simply share the opinion of a sufficient representative majority on every issue you care about.

          And most people are only particularly interested in a handful of national issues.

          You also fail to account for positions of principal or conscience. Given a
    • The people smart enough to consider this question are probably more intelligent than 85% of those who actually will vote. Therefore, not voting because you don't think you are informed enough results in fewer votes by smart people. It puts more power in the hands of the stupid.

      • Pardon? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:27PM (#16758991) Journal
        Therefore, not voting because you don't think you are informed enough results in fewer votes by smart people. It puts more power in the hands of the stupid.

        This is a perfect example of the fallacy of appeal to authority. Being smart but ignorant does not somehow make your ignorance any more valuable than that of stupid people.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Yes, but how do you measure ignorance? If you could find some metric for ignorance, and took a ignorant stupid person (ok, you'd also have to measure intelligence, which would be its own can of worms) and an equally ignorant smart person, then sure... neither would be more qualified to make a good (to say well-informed) vote.

          But the nice thing about smart people is sometimes they can bridge their ignorance with inferences that stupid people cannot make. Whether those inferences make them less ignorant (
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lord Ender (156273)
          You are incorrect (in many cases). A smart person is more likely to recognize his own ignorance, while a stupid person is likely to make decisions based on FALSE information.

          Smart people can often realize when someone is trying to mislead them, while stupid people are much more likely to fall for it.

          Who is more valuable (to use your term): The person who knows the extent of his own knowledge, or the person with factually incorrect "knowledge?"
      • by bomb_number_20 (168641) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:04PM (#16759691)
        I disagree.

        Being smart gives you no advantage when voting unless you know something about the candidates. If you don't know anything about any of the candidates, you are reduced to guessing. In this case, the only information you have available to you is the candidates name, party and the position they are running for. You have nothing useful with which to draw a meaningful conclusion as to the best candidate.

        In this particular situation, a stupid person who knows nothing about the candidates guesses just as well as a smart person who knows nothing about the candidates.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Lord Ender (156273)

          If you don't know anything about any of the candidates, you are reduced to guessing.

          That may be technically true but it is ALMOST NEVER the case in politics. At the very least, a person knows which party's general philosophies most closely match his own.

          Voting based only on something like that isn't ideal. But it IS better than the masses who vote because they saw a commercial that said "Kevin Bacon voted against veterans," where the veteran issue was a rider on a bill promote the kicking of puppies.

          One is

      • by blockhouse (42351) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:10PM (#16759797)
        It puts more power in the hands of the stupid.

        That in a nutshell is why democracy is ineffective, dangerous, and should be abolished.
        • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @08:47PM (#16761155) Homepage
          It puts more power in the hands of the stupid.
          That in a nutshell is why democracy is ineffective, dangerous, and should be abolished.

          Democracy is the worst form of government--except all the others that have been tried.

          Personally, I think the best answer would be a democracy of educated people. Make the high school curriculum better. Make teaching lucrative enough that intelligent people consider it as a career option. Make economics, formal logic, philosophy, and finance mandatory high school courses.
    • by Saxerman (253676) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:14PM (#16758713) Homepage
      Informed-ness is in the eye of the beholder.

      Too true, and so sad. I didn't actually vote until I was 26 because of my fear of my own ignorance. I was buying into the political rhetoric that the issues were complicated and I needed considerable research to provide a properly informed decision on election day.

      But what the hell does that even mean? "Properly informed" by whom? What critical piece of information was *I* missing that somehow invalidated my opinion, or at least made it less worthy than others? Did I honestly belive that the electorate which did believe in themselves enough to vote were doing an adequate job of choosing the leadership of this country? Is the list of those to vote *for* even adequate to the task? I clearly belive this is not the case, but what should I then do about it? Am I then charged with civic responsibility to either run myself or inspire a worthy candidate? Would this obligation then charge me with doing my utmost to get into office? How far would I really have to take this responsibility?

      Of course, the answer for me turns out to be far more simple. My problem wasn't ignorance, but procrastination. I would always wait until the last moment to decide if I should get informed on the issues, until I eventually decided to not bother. I mean, I didn't even know where or how to register! Yet, but taking a little initiative to start researching before the election, I quickly found the information I needed from my state website, which also listed all the candidates which would be on my local ballot. Using the little state bio information provided was more than enough to google each of them. Although there is certainly a lot (sic) of biased political information on the web, it really didn't take me long to decide which candidates I preferred. I registered as an Independent, and more often than note my votes tend to cross party lines. However I suspect this isn't so much that I'm a moderate, but because our sad excuse for a two party system has turned into giant political monoliths that blur the issues in an attempt to garner mass appeal.

    • by wass (72082) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:44PM (#16759317)
      I think it's also very important to consider the history of the vote. Wars have been fought, people have been killed, even recently in our country's history, to ensure that everybody would have the right to vote. Eg, huge efforts were exerted, in the face of adversity, when women and blacks demanded they have the right to vote. And that means the same rights as everybody else, without the discriminatory grandfathering clauses that were originally allowed in the Jim Crow laws, etc.


      So if you're too lazy to vote, or to research at least some of the candidates positions, you're really shitting all over the efforts and lives lost of people that DID fight for the right to make sure that you have the right to vote.


      Anyway, IMHO if you don't vote you really don't have any leg to stand on to complain about any governmental laws. If Congress decides to attack Iraq or invade North Korea, and you get drafted, DON'T COMPLAIN if you didn't vote. If Congress decides to massively raise your taxes, DON'T COMPLAIN if you didn't vote. If Congress passes laws allowing eavesdropping on all your emails and web browses, DON'T COMPLAIN if you didn't vote. Etc, etc.


      Nobody knows all the issues of the candidates themselves, their opponents have teams of staffers who can dig through mounds of legislation to find some obscure clause in some prior vote to say "Candidate X voted AGAINST clean forests" or something like that.


      In a nutshell, GET OUT AND VOTE!, regardless of whether you consider yourself informed or not. Democracy (yada yada, representative republic yada yada) is the people's voice, and some percentage of uninformed people would still be representative of the populace.


      But if you consider yourself uninformed, ask yourself if you like how things are going in the country. Consider Iraq, Social Security, Geek Issues that are brought up on Slashdot, etc. If you like how things are going, then vote for the same party in power. If you want change, vote for someone else.


      One final comment - Voting breeds more informed voters. Meaning that once you start to vote you'll start paying more attention to issues that matter. Hell, you might even start writing to your Congressman about issues you care about (they really listen to their constituency, especially when they're up for re-election). It's kind of like if you're in the market for a pickup truck, you start to notice all the kinds of pickup trucks around your neighborhood that you never would have seen before.

      • by Jim_Callahan (831353) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @01:37AM (#16763713)
        The problem with your initial argument is that the demands of historical precedent are satisfied by turning in a blank ballot, thus exercising your right, without actually voting.
         
        As for your second argument, I'm just going to say that someone a lot more authoritative on the issue than yourself grants unconditional right to complain about any political desire you wish, regardless of wether or not you vote. It's generally referred to as the first amendment to the US Constitution, and technically it isn't even limited to people who can vote.
         
        Regarding your third point, we're not a democracy, we're a republic: it's not a system to bring the will of the majority on every issue, it's a system to place the correct people in power to make the correct judgements while preventing abuse of governmental power. Frankly, I'm rather glad of this, given my experience with the political ignorance of the average citizen. (Preceding assumes that you're in the USA, which seems reasonable given that you refer to 'congress' and not, say, 'parliament', use american syntax, and are on a /. politics thread.)
         
        Regarding your advice on selecting a party to vote for, I provide the simple counterexample of switching from, say, republican to democrat: your strategy just failed, because you voted for a clone of the party already in power. You have to be reasonably informed to even select a party that would cause some sort of policy change.
         
        And, finally, no, voting does nothing to improve voter informedness of itself. In fact, simple proportioning tells us that the more issues you cast a vote on, the less time you will spend on average considering each issue, since there is a finite span of time for each election and assumably you spend what you can spare in either case.
         
        Rebuttal complete. Do I get a cookie or something? 'cause I'm starving over here.
      • by saxoholic (992773) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @02:33AM (#16764047)
        The original poster raises some good points. However, a close friend of mine recently wrote a rather extensive paper on this subject. He detirmined through research (I didn't write the paper, so I couldn't tell you what his sources were) that when people vote because they feel they have to, it skews the election because people in this demographic tend to vote for candidates based on reasons other than the issues. Personal appearance, or just the sound of a name play an important role here.

        He also detirmined that overall, it's better if you don't feel strongly about the election that you don't vote. The analogy he used when explaining it to me was this:

        Let's say that an office is throwing a party, and the host wants to know if he should serve peanuts or potato chips, so he sends around a survey giving the people attending the option to check either peanuts or potato chips. Let's also say that 50 people are going to the party, 40 don't really care whether peanuts or chips are served, 3 strongly favor chips, and 7 people are allergic to peanuts.

        With the survey passed around all 50 people are forced to make a choice between peanuts and chips. While 40 of them don't actually have a preference, by forcing them to choose, it is possible that peanuts will win the vote, leaving the 7 people with a peanut allergy very unhappy.

        However, if only those who cared strongly about the issue voted, chips would definitely win, the 40 people who didn't have a preference wouldn't be displeased, and only the 3 people would be unsatisfied. By limiting the voting population to those who strongly cared about the issue, more people overall were happy.

        So, don't just vote because you feel you have to, vote because you care about the issues you're voting for. When you vote because you feel it is your duty, you skew the data, and it is possible that overall fewer people will be happy with the result.
  • Get Informed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:36PM (#16757727) Homepage Journal
    I realize that the seemingly correct thing to do is to stay at home. But all that does is ensure the tyranny of those with an agenda. This stuff isn't rocket science. There are not that many candidates to choose from, and you're chosing the lesser of two evils anyway.

    Get Informed.
    Get to the Ballot.
    Get your vote counted.

    Period, end of story.
    • I agree completely. Your "uninformed" vote is certainly at least partially informed. You've absorbed some information whether you like it or not. A lot of that information is propaganda, no doubt, but hopefully the "average uninformed" voter will get some signal through that noise. However, when the turnout is only 30% (as I believe predictions are calling for), who wins depends a lot more on who energizes their base more than what the majority believes (thus reinforcing negative campaigning).

      VOTE!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SimonShine (795915)
      > Get Informed.
      > Get to the Ballot.
      > Get your vote counted.

      I agree. There will be people who are not only less informed than you, but who also disagree strongly with you, who are idiots and who will vote. By not voting, you let their votes count more. Moral: You don't have to get that informed, just make your vote count a little.

      On another note, I realise why choosing between just two candidates *is* hard. In Denmark, you can vote for the party which you identify as being in your vicinity on the po
    • Spoil the Ballot (Score:3, Interesting)

      On the other hand, if you're not able to vote on a topic (whether it is because you're uninformed or can not decide between your options) go to a polling station and spoil the ballot.

      To simply not show up to vote says that you're too lazy to vote (and that you don't take the right to vote seriously) ... spoiling the ballot says you do not believe you have a good option.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by freeweed (309734)
        Or you're too stupid to mark only one box.

        We still need an option for "none of the above, thanks".
    • Re:Get Informed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by parasonic (699907) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:52PM (#16758269)
      I realize that the seemingly correct thing to do is to stay at home. But all that does is ensure the tyranny of those with an agenda. This stuff isn't rocket science. There are not that many candidates to choose from, and you're chosing the lesser of two evils anyway.
      I'm certainly not choosing the lesser of two evils. In the grand scheme of things, I vote for who I think should be elected. Generally, that's a third-party/independent candidate. It's only when there are two equal evils with no choice of a third that I don't vote--the best way to express my opinion is by showing NO support for either of them. If either were elected, I would be equally dissatisfied.

      So, you know that your vote has no effect in the grand total of millions. Why not vote your conscious? You'll know that you did the right thing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)
        If everybody thought that, we'd have a much better world.

        I count people who vote for their party no matter what among those who are uniformed voters. They're MORE dangerous than people who just pick at random.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:06PM (#16758581) Homepage
      Not only what the parent said, but everybody always wants to talk about which candidate to vote for. If you don't feel confident voting for any of the candidates on your ballot -- and you really don't think you're affiliated with any party, including the Green party, Libertarians, what-have-you -- then you can always leave those boxes blank, if your conscience just won't let you pick one.

      Nonetheless, there are lots of other things on the ballot you might be interested in voting for. Are you really, really, really against cigarette taxes? You might want to show up at the polls. Do you think that bond measures are just borrowing money we don't have, and you don't want to float any more bonds for your local schools? You might have an opinion on that, and the information on the ballot is going to be pretty straightforward. Do you think immigrants are great for America and all the crying about how they steal our jobs is hogwash? You might want to see what kind of things your legislators have proposed in the name of tightening up the borders. People have opinions, and the elections give you the opportunity to vote not just on candidates but on specific bills and measures that affect your local community.

      My gut feeling, of course, is that the statement "I don't pay any attention to politics" is a total cop-out. Do you not watch the news? Do you have absolutely no idea about what's going on in the world and no opinions about it, either? I have a hard time buying this. There's a certain little voice in my gut that thinks that "I don't pay attention to politics" is tantamount to saying "I am a lazy couch potato with no sense of ethics or civic duty, who's totally happy with the status quo because I'm too self centered to ever be involved with my community or care what happens to it."

  • 3rd Party (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WickedLogic (314155) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:36PM (#16757729) Journal
    If you don't care, and are not going to vote. Vote for more variety, if nothing else...
    • by transporter_ii (986545) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:55PM (#16758345) Homepage
      If you know a person is good, vote for him regardless of which party he or she is in. If you don't know, vote Libertarian. If there is no Libertarian, don't vote (or vote for another third party on the ballot with which you agree, if there is one).

      The country goes the same direction no matter which party is in control. As it is sometimes said, both parties are running a train toward a cliff, it is just that one party wants to go off the cliff a litter faster than the other party. I don't want to go off the cliff fast or slow, so I'm not going to vote for either one of them (unless there is someone really good running, like a Ron Paul Republican).

      However, a vote for a third party, such as the Libertarians, sends a much more powerful message than not voting.

      Transporter_ii
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AusIV (950840)
        I typically follow the rules you've described for voting. If I have an explicit reason to vote a certain way, I vote that way. Otherwise, I vote libertarian or leave it blank. If I'm not informed on an issue, I should leave the decision to people who are informed. I have friends who tell me voting libertarian is a wasted vote, but I disagree (you didn't really address why it sends a more powerful message than not voting, so I'm going to).

        Every election, you hear people saying it's their patriotic duty to g

  • Agree (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zashi (992673)
    I completely agree. An uniformed vote is far worse than no vote at all. The masses are easily swayed. Do you really want the people governing your nation to be picked via their ability to spread the most propaganda? Granted, that is more or less how things work now, but uninformed votes only worsen the situation.
  • If you feel you dont know how to vote, skip it. At least you are being honest, unlike the people that read a few bullet points, then vote based off of that.

    People that blindly vote, that is far worse than not voting because it takes away accountability. The politician now knows those people will blindly vote for them, in contrast, the people that dont vote, dont count, but the people that do vote, are more likely to care that the person didnt live up to their expectations and vote his butt out next time a
  • How can one vote if one doesn't understand what one is voting for?
    Suppose there was a vote held for to make it mandatory to grind all puppies and kittens into grease for face cream and everyone passed it out of ignorance?

    Duh.

  • Start reading, start googling, check out your local newspaper's website. You don't have to ponder for months. There are plenty of primary sources out there to make your decision with time to go out for ice cream all before the polls close. You don't... hate .... ice cream.... do you?
  • by 2nd Post! (213333) <(gundbear) (at) (pacbell.net)> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:37PM (#16757769) Homepage
    There is no such thing as an uninformed vote. You cannot be TOTALLY ignorant. You will know something.

    In aggregate then hopefully that information will come out.

    If you don't vote at all then you are literally giving other people control over your life. Voting is not ONLY about candidates. You can vote on issues/questions/propositions that increase or decrease taxes or affect your life entirely.

    So to recap: If you were totally, completely, entirely ignorant than your vote will be canceled out by all the other voters who are totally ignorant. On the other hand if you have even a smattering of knowledge, that vote will not be cancelled out because it will "align" with other voters who also have a smattering of knowledge.

    At the very worst your vote will cancel out someone else who makes a "bad" vote.
  • Read something (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ispeters (621097) <ispeters@alu[ ]. ... a ['mni' in gap]> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:38PM (#16757799)

    This comes from a person who's too lazy to get off his butt and vote in an impending municipal election, so take it as you please.

    I think not voting and voting while uninformed are both equally heinous. The solution to not voting is voting and the solution to voting while uninformed is to go read something--the newspaper, the internet, a candidate's brochure, whatever. It sounds to me like the problem isn't that you're uninformed, the problem is that you're lazy (like me). So, either get informed, or tell your family that you're too lazy to vote.

    Ian

    • Re:Read something (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shrykk (747039) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:27PM (#16760075)
      The solution to not voting is voting and the solution to voting while uninformed is to go read something

      Well said, sir. Even if you start on election day you can read the manifestos/pledges/whatever of the parties you'd consider voting for, and find out a little about your local candidates. You can turn over in your mind whether to vote on an issue (such as economics, global politics or personal liberties) that you consider most important, or to make a 'tactical vote', go for a big party or a little guy etc. It doesn't take long to arrive at a decision you can at least live with for the next few years.
  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:38PM (#16757801) Homepage
    Is An Uninformed Vote Better Than No Vote?

    Is crapflooding better than a no post?
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Control Group (105494) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:39PM (#16757819) Homepage
    Of course not. An uninformed vote will be insignificantly different from a random vote, and I don't think anyone would encourage you to go to your polling place and flip a coin to determine each vote. In fact, I suspect that the very same people insisting you go vote would be appalled if you did that.

    The people who argue that it's somehow your "duty" to go vote are also full of it. It may be possible - may - to make a case that it is the duty of each citizen to cast a reasoned vote. But it would be ridiculous to claim that it's the duty of every citizen to, again, go to the polling place and flip a coin.

    Now, a caveat: I would argue that an uninformed vote is vastly superior to an misinformed vote. So I, personally, am happier hearing that people went and just voted according to whim than hearing that people went and voted straight ticket (I find the odds of each candidate at all levels of government for a given party just happening to line up with your opinions on each issue at each level of government to be quite low). After all, basically random votes should, ultimately, cancel each other out.

    That being said, the comment that you should be happy to let your more-informed neighbors make the decisions really ought to be incentive to become informed, so you don't have to trust what Joe Bloggs thinks of who's in charge.
    • Of course not. An uninformed vote will be insignificantly different from a random vote, and I don't think anyone would encourage you to go to your polling place and flip a coin to determine each vote. In fact, I suspect that the very same people insisting you go vote would be appalled if you did that.

      You're right that a random vote is much better than a misinformed vote - if a million non-voters decided to go the polls and start flipping coins, they'd basically just add gaussian noise with a 500 vote standa
  • by carlivar (119811) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:39PM (#16757841)
    I don't want to vote Republican or Democrat

    Then don't! Sigh... why is everyone so stuck on the 2-party system? No wonder people are uninterested and uninformed. We have so many choices with everything in life yet we limit ourselves to two political parties, both of which have more in common these days than not.

    VOTE THIRD PARTY! For my third party of choice see my sig, but really please just vote for anyone but the Republicrats.
  • by Channard (693317) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:40PM (#16757849) Journal
    "I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here.

    'I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.' 'I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.' 'Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding both puppets!' 'Shut up! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control.'"

  • by flaming-opus (8186) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:40PM (#16757865)
    you could have surfed over to your local newspaper's webpage and become reasonable informed.

    It's not that hard to find out a cantidate's position on ten or fifteen topics. No matter who you elect, they will do something you don't like, but you can get a pretty good idea in fifteen minutes.

    Hop to it.
  • by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:40PM (#16757879) Journal
    When people say that it is your civic duty to vote, they are only telling you a third of the story. It is your civic duty to lean about the issues, make up your own mind, and then, (and only then) vote. That is why our founding fathers set up our educational system. They knew that an ignorant electorate would not be able to make informed decisions. Otherwise, the public only votes on catch-phrases like "Iraqi quagmire" or "Soft on terrorism".

    If you don't know, stay home.
  • Related (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:41PM (#16757917) Journal
    I'm surpised the Mankiw piece got linked without mentioning a someone similar piece by Prof. Bryan Caplan [cato-unbound.org] (who himself links [econlib.org] the Mankiw piece) that summarizes his upcoming book, The Myth of the Rational Voter.

    Long story short, he argues that because people don't personally bear the cost of holding ridiculous political beliefs, they relax their standards of intellectual rigor, similar to how they do with religious beliefs. They thus use voting to appeal to their "feel good" side rather than seriously analyze the issues (like the would with, e.g. their own finances), resulting in destructive policies all-around.

    So he takes Mankiw one step further and says that it's not just ignorance that's a problem, but irrationality. If it were mere ignorance, the errors would cancel. But, Caplan, claims, they don't -- they skew the wrong way.
  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:41PM (#16757947) Homepage Journal
    In America, where only two parties are given a chance at winning by the media [and thus they shape perception that way into reality], you really can't lose by voting for a 3rd party. If you aren't happy with the current system, staying home isn't getting changes put into place. But if you vote Green, or Libertarian, or Independent, you're sending a message that you don't trust mainstream politics. Imagine what would happen if 10% of the voters went for non-Democrat and non-Republican. Could politicians really believe that that many millions of Americans don't deserve to be represented in Congress or the Presidency?

    They'd HAVE to change the system to a more fair electoral system.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eglamkowski (631706)
      Could politicians really believe that that many millions of Americans don't deserve to be represented in Congress or the Presidency?

      Yes, yes they can believe that. And they do.

      They'd HAVE to change the system to a more fair electoral system.

      No, no they wouldn't. It took them over 100 years to entrench the two party system so firmly it will be nigh impossible to dislodge it. What in the world makes you think they are about to give that up? Because a couple of people don't like it?

      As long as the majority
  • by Mark McGann (570684) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:42PM (#16757961)
    The fact of the matter is realising you're uninformed is actually a sign of intelligence, so please vote. It only takes a few minuites to find the key candidates websites online and give them at least a brief viewing.

    I'm sure there are people who are so ignorant they shouldn't vote, but the fact of the matter is those people don't know they're ignorant and hence won't choose not to vote because of it.
  • laziness (Score:4, Informative)

    by capoccia (312092) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:44PM (#16758049) Journal
    it really doesn't take that long to find out the candidate's positions. the league of women voters does a good job of consolidating all the information i needed.
  • by mpapet (761907) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:48PM (#16758161) Homepage
    Which ones I can't get to right now, but the attitude is common.

    1. If you are not following politics, then how would you -ever- know if your representatives did something you did not agree with.
    2. It's a good bet your Representatives are going to do things you disagree with. Again, since you don't follow politics, I'm not sure how it is you will know.
    3. It took me about an hour last night to check my understanding of the candidates/issues and then make voting notes. Your favorite search engine makes it easy.

    It's 1:45 PST, so pretty much everywhere in the U.S., your polls should be open and you have an hour to get your facts straight on the issues and candidates in your area.

    Many people have fought and died for over the last 200+ years so that YOU have the priviledge of participating in our democracy. There is no excuse. Get informed and Go vote.
  • by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot@nOSPAm.andrewrondeau.com> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:51PM (#16758249) Homepage

    When I'm uninformed, I do some of the following strategies:

    • Show up to vote, but only vote on the candidates / questions that I am familar with. For example, 4 years ago I only voted for 1 candidate and left the rest of the ballot blank. Today I left about 1/3rd of the ballot blank.
    • Vote for people who can't win, but support issues that you agree with. For example, when I first started voting I'd give a lot of votes to 3rd parties. Also, if I don't care about an election I'll vote for the guy who'll legalize pot. (The 3rd party vote ends up swaying major parties.)
    • Spend 30 minutes watching a debate! Sometimes you'll find that one of the candidates is such a looser that you HAVE to vote against him/her.
    • Read the high-level description of ballot initiatives; if they're confusing, vote no. Chances are, some dirty politicion is trying to pull a fast one.
    • Don't be afraid to give a party your entire ballot, if you think the other party has too much power.

    I hope this helps!

    • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:09PM (#16758643)

      Show up to vote, but only vote on the candidates / questions that I am familar with. For example, 4 years ago I only voted for 1 candidate and left the rest of the ballot blank. Today I left about 1/3rd of the ballot blank.

      I agree, but NOT FOR BALLOT MEASURES. Government office is a temporary position, but ballot measures seldom are reversed even if they do obvious harm once passed. When in doubt, VOTE AGAINST CHANGING YOUR STATE'S CONSTITUTION.

      This is a big problem in Oregon. Too many things, in my opinion, are placed on the ballot as Constitutional amendments. I vote against most of these things, even if I fundamentally agree with the measures. The Constitution is not a dumping ground for piecemeal amendments. These issues should go through the normal legislative process.

  • If you care... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yrd (253300) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:54PM (#16758323) Homepage
    If you care enough to worry about an uninformed vote being bad, why haven't you taken steps to become informed? As a citizen of a democracy, you have the responsibility to do at least cursory research to help you choose who to vote for as your future leaders. It doesn't take long, and it's surely worth some of your time in order to allow you to be confident that you're voting for the right person?
  • by Mr2001 (90979) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:54PM (#16758331) Homepage Journal
    The problem with this philosophy is it assumes everyone's interests are the same, that there is one "best" candidate and if you aren't informed enough to know who he is, you should stay home and let the informed people vote for him. (Or, rather, it assumes that the pool of uninformed voters has the same overall interests as the pool of informed voters.)

    But that isn't necessarily true. Suppose uninformed voters tend to have some characteristic that separates them from the general population. For the sake of argument, let's say uninformed voters tend to be younger and poorer than informed voters. Clearly, younger and poorer people will have a different set of interests than older and wealthier people, and policies that benefit one group might harm the other. A young, poor, uninformed voter who decides to stay home and let someone more informed make the decision for him may be handing his vote over to a policy that will harm him, whereas even if he went to the polls himself and just picked a candidate randomly, he might have a better chance of casting it for someone whose interests are more closely aligned with his own.
  • It's Sad Really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sweatyboatman (457800) <sweatyboatman@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:55PM (#16758337) Homepage Journal
    Jeez. Use the inter-web to find out information about the candidates [nytimes.com] in your area. This should take 5 minutes. Now... vote!

    What's that? You want to be even more informed than what you can get in 5 minutes? Well, now that's a different question: "Ask Slashdot: How Much Information Is Required For Me To Make An Informed Vote?" (The answer to that question is either none or infinity.)

    You cannot accurately predict the future behavior of the people you vote for. Many 'informed' voters voted for Bush last time and now regret it (and think of all those Democratic primary voters who voted for Kerry). The candidates you are voting for are actually - gasp - real people. And there's an incredibly high likelihood that once they're elected they'll change their positions on any number of important (to you) issues. And using past life experience to predict future behavior in office is no guarantee either (Ahem... McCain v. Torture)

    If you don't feel like searching the web. Just go and vote. It'll just take a minute. And at the very least, if you go through the process of voting now, next time there's an election you may remember this point in your life and try a little harder to be prepared.
  • Don't be silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:27PM (#16758977)
    In the time it takes someone to whine about being uninformed, they could be researching their vote choice. Almost everyone has a sample ballot online. The League of Women Voters [lwv.org] provides a lot of information for just about everyone. Campaign finance records are online even if you don't have the time to study them in detail. And there's plenty of stuff on candidates just from googling around. If I can't make an informed vote, I leave it blank. For example, I researched the entire ballot for my part of California kind of last minute. Some things I had already decided to vote for (eg, the Governator for another four years). But turns out I missed a choice for school board, so I left that blank. It took a couple hours (plus consider time that I had spent earlier reading up on the propositions) and I'd rather have spent longer (I hadn't budgeted the time before a major weekend trip). I did make sure I voted against the clown, Bill Lockyer who was suing automakers for global warming.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:28PM (#16758999) Homepage Journal
    Even more important than your share of the decisionmaking, which is small, is the "buy-in" by you to the government that is chosen. Even if your choices lose, if you vote you at least had your say, and are more likely to say it's a relatively fair process. And of course participation by you, along with everyone else, helps ensure that the public's requirements are part of the system. Per person, the inclusion of your whole person in the process is bigger than your contribution to the decision.

    Otherwise, just the "special people" would vote, only their kind of voting process would go on, and only they would be part of the system that rules them for the next year or two or four or six. And eventually that cut-out part of the people would become ungovernable.

    Elections are orderly revolutions. Why should disorderly revolutions have all the fun of ignorant masses deciding the rulers?
  • Vote 3rd-party (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:35PM (#16759153) Homepage
    In my state, 38% of the eligible voters voted in the last election. So if those 62% went out and voted for each of the 3 other parties (Green, Libertarian, Populist) registered in my state, at random, then we we would have 5 viable parties. That would completely change the political landscape. Finally, there would have to be real discussion on issues. It means that someone would be in office who didn't have campaign contributions from big corporations. It means we would have representatives would be turning away lobbyists instead of making shady deals in smoky rooms (sorry for the cliche). So I say, if you are uninformed, vote for the guaranteed losers.
  • 3rd party candidates (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AaronW (33736) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @06:37PM (#16759199) Homepage
    I don't see all the mudslinging campaign commercials since I have a Replay and tend to watch channels they don't advertise on. So I went through the voter guides with statements by various candidates. At least where I live, a number of candidates could not take the time to fill out what they stand for and why I should vote for them. One Green party candidate complained that it cost $20 per word and would say nothing else but refer to a web site. I'm sorry, but even at $20 per word it looks like the major candidates spent only around $5000, which I'm sure isn't too big of a burden on the Green party or some other part, especially for a state as large as California. In other cases, there were no 3rd party candidates to choose from or their philosophies were so far out of mainstream that I couldn't stomach them.

    Unexpectedly, the local race was pretty easy to decide. For our city council there were two incumbents who have done a fairly decent job. The other candidates went from flaky to just plain deranged.

    Similarly with the water board... the quality of the local water is pretty good and it's cheap and they've done a good job maintaining a good supply. If the incumbent has done a good job, why change it?

    Secretary of State for California was also a no-brainer for me. Debra Bowen, the democratic candidate, has made numerous statements in support of an open-source voting system while her republican opponent is fine and dandy with Diebold and co and more worried about illegal immigrants voting.

    I seriously considered 3rd party candidates for governor, but none of them put forth a compelling reason why I should vote for them and either came out as being too far to the right or the left.

    I'm sorry, but if I'm to vote for a Green Party or some other 3rd party, a majority of their views should be relatively mainstream middle of the road. After all, whoever is elected will need to work with the state legislature. I mean, why can't a Green Party candidate come out for the environment and not be totally anti-corporation, i.e. try and encourage corporations to be more eco-friendly. Most corporations aren't really evil and have their place. Some actively help promote environmental protection.

    The propositions took a bit of research.

    Some positions I just didn't know enough about, so I left those blank. Some I went by endorsements since I knew some of the people making the endorsements.

  • by peacefinder (469349) * <alan.dewitt@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @08:13PM (#16760737) Journal
    Ideally, you should get informed. This is your country. You are part owner. Assume your responsibilities and get informed.

    But of course, that may seem a dauntingly large step. If it's too intimidating, then start small. Almost every election has several races and issues to be voted upon. So pick one. Get informed about that issue. Read the information provided by the candidtaes, or the initiative text or whatever. Ask your friends. Read the papers. Check out local blogs. Think about it. Form your own opinion, then vote accordingly.

    Leave the rest of the ballot blank if you must. There's no penalty for undervoting, so just vote on what you know. It's not that hard.

    Try again next election... but pick more than one thing to vote on.

    Don't wait, just get started.
  • by Junta (36770) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @08:13PM (#16760741)
    I'll wager the majority of the population goes to vote with nothing more than the TV ads and aggressive mailings/telemarketing calls to guide them, i.e. underinformed to misinformed.

    This means:
    -The candidate that will push policies that align well with the views of the majority of the constituency may lose to the slime ball who sinks the lowest and sways the most 'sheep' to vote for them. A strong factor is stressing things that have nothing to do with policy, or when they do focus on the opponent's voting history/plans they do so in a headline sensationalist way (i.e. 'He voted against the PATRIOT act, would you want an unpatriotic representative?').
    -Your pool of likely candidates to win consist solely of those who already powerful and wealthy, who can either afford to fund such shallow campaigns or align themselves with those who do, at which point you can be assured they are likely to have no grasp on the 'common' person's experience, and/or have agreed to completely be the bitch of the rich and powerful. If a very level-headed but middle-class person of no particular extraordinary means who is independent would be the best candidate and widely popular, he will still not get into the media outlets. This used to be an unfortunate fact that people could not easily overcome, but now with the internet people have a venue to campaign, but *only* if the voters would proactively research the candidates. That's the up and down of the internet, anyone can publish, but only those that want to read will.

    A lot of people argue that the uninformed balance out between both parties, and that's a bad statement to make. First the implication is that no independent or third party candidates should ever matter. Secondly, truthfully speaking, there are almost *no* uninformed voters, just those with useless information or bad information they are brainwashed into thinking is important. If they were truly uninformed, they wouldn't even recognize the words 'democrat' or 'republican' and being significant and different from 'independent', 'libertarian', 'green party' or what have you.

    The result is that we have a system consisting of two parties that have ceased to mean much at all, with independent and third party candidates consisting largely of overly extreme viewpoints. If someone were, say, a republican truer to the original creed of reduced government, but not overboard, in a sane system that candidate could be libertarian, but if they are moderate they will jump into the republican camp even though the party doesn't represent that anymore, because it's the closest 'realistic' fit. Republicans *vaguely* are about reinforcing the current social structure and trusting business to manage the welfare of the economy, but not much more can really be said, some would cut back on government size and spending, some would increase both. Democrats are vaguely about increasing social programs, but again it's not a hard rule and not much else can be discerned. For example, based on the widespread principles, the occurrence of democrats rightfully criticizing a lack of fiscal responsibility in the republican party should be exactly backwards, but it's happening.
  • Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:59PM (#16762013) Homepage
    Wow...

    Wow...

    There are people who would give their lives for the ability to do what you shrug off so easily. Your lack of enthusiasm for the freedoms you've been blessed with is a DISGRACE and you should feel ashamed. You have brains and you've chosen not to use them, which is the most horrible thing anyone could ever do. Go read up on your elected officials and the issues that you have the ability to affect. There's really not that much to learn and it should only take you a couple of hours. It is unacceptable to either not vote or to cast an uninformed vote. The only right thing to do is to get informed and to fulfill your civic DUTY, a duty that people are DYING for even as I write this. Your lack of respect for their sacrifice is astounding. I don't give a rat's ass what your political affiliation is. I'm a liberal at heart, so I probably disagree with some of the things you and your parents believe in, but I'll be damned if I'll let you sit there and say voting isn't important enough for your time.

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