How ignorant were Obama voters?

This Zogby poll is very scary.

42.6 percent of Obama supporters believed that Democrats controlled both houses of congress.

28.2 percent of Obama supporters knew that Biden had to quit a previous political campaign because he had plagiarized a speech.

11.6 percent of Obama supporters knew that Obama had said that his policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and make energy rates skyrocket.

These were multiple choice questions, so those surveyed were guaranteed fairly high rates of success if they had simply voted randomly. Note also that 55 percent of those surveyed had graduated college and that over 80 percent had at least some college.

This is a very sad statement about the knowledge level of the electorate as well as what people learn from college. 0.5 percent of those interviewed got all twelve of the questions correct. Note that $150,000 was NOT spent on Palin's clothes, that money was spent on all of the Palin family.

The WSJ has an attack on the Zogby poll here. First, it is exactly true that questions about older events should be less likely to be accurate, but Biden's old mistakes should have been discussed at some point during the campaign (so that would be also relevant during the 3 month window the WSJ focuses on) and they were not. The point is that these voters were not well informed, whether it is due to media bias or that the voters were not smart -- the bottom line is the same. Second, the WSJ numbersguy corrects the poll for asking an inaccurate question that was unfavorable to the Democrats, but he doesn't mention similar mistakes were made on the other side (e.g., Palin didn't have $150,000 on clothes for her, it was for clothes for her whole family). Finally, it is very disappointing that Zogby wouldn't redo the same survey on McCain supporters. If that were done, it would (as the WSJ piece implies) put many of the claims to rest. I would bet that if Zogby had done this, he would have found the McCain supporters much more accurate on these issues.



Blogger Doug the Second said...

It is rather astonishing at the voter ignorance, but I'm sure similar results could have been obtained from McCain voters. There's a lot of ignorance that affects voters of all stripes.

11/23/2008 10:09 AM  
Blogger scooteraz said...

The evidence is fairly certain at this point that most, not all, most Americans and individuals in general, relinquish their personal accountability and ownership of choices to someone or something else, thereby attempting to relieve themselves of response-ability.

It's a degradation of society that encourages dependence on any outlet to inform when it is the sole responsibility of the individual to inform self about subjects and candidates when placing a vote.

All the excuses, justifications, or rationalizations will not absolve any individual from this responsibility.

It reflects the nature of the individual who would offer up excuses, justifications or rationalizations to such ignorance of their vote.

11/23/2008 10:15 AM  
Blogger Lonán said...

Have you actually looked at poll? The "Alaska from my house" was a trick question: "Which of the candidates said [...]?" presupposes that one did.

Further, alot of that stuff was really obscure; I like to think that I'm well informed, but I would have gotten 4 wrong, and 1 I'd have only gotten right on a guess.

11/23/2008 3:23 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Lonán:

Possibly I am biased because I would have gotten all the questions right and I guess that I thought all these questions were in fact obvious things that even people somewhat following the election should have known.

You didn't have to give a name for the "Alaska from my house" question.

What were the four that you got wrong?

11/23/2008 3:41 PM  
Blogger Lonán said...

I'd have been caught by the presupposition/Tina Fey question, International Crisis (I'd probably have said Clinton), Coal (Biden), Weather Underground (no clue), and would have guessed right on the "Kicked opponents off the ballot" question.

The point stands, however, that the negative GoP stories seem to have stuck more than the negative Dem stories...

11/23/2008 4:24 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Lonán:

Well, the Weather Underground issue did get significant coverage during the last three months (you did hear about Bill Ayers, right). Possibly you also didn't listen to the last debate. Obama's comments about bankrupting coal got significant coverage during the last weekend before the election, though you would have probably had to have paid attention to the WSJ, Fox News, Drudge, talk radio, the NY Post, etc.. So could be a problem of the media coverage, which is part of the point being made here. Clinton's name wasn't given as an option on the international question, so I assume that you wouldn't have given that answer. In any case, that was also given significant news coverage, though again by media that you probably didn't listen to.

I am sorry, but even someone who moderately follows these issues should have known about these points. To me it is troubling that someone who seems smart as yourself is so poorly informed about these things -- I guess that I blame the media for covering the coverage and style but not the substance.

11/23/2008 4:55 PM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

I must wonder how well Joe Biden would have performed on this poll...

11/24/2008 12:48 PM  
Blogger TYF said...

I'm inclined to believe the results, but I think they'd be much more powerful if the poll had also included McCain voters and could compare the two groups. Without it, we're left asking, "Okay, but compared to WHAT?"

That's what's made your research about the MN Senate race so powerful --- you showed Franken's gains were much more dramatic than for other candidates. By themselves, the "corrections" in Franken's favor might not seem so dramatic. They need to be compared to something.

11/24/2008 11:42 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear TYF:

I agree. That is why I wrote about being so disappointed that Zogby was refusing to do the same survey on McCain voters. The poll was hardly perfect, but, as I wrote, I agree with you that "many of the claims to rest."

11/25/2008 12:15 AM  

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