by Scott Winship
The comments to my post on the uninformed bloc were so interesting that I decided to dig into the data myself and address a couple of the questions and points raised by commenters. This is sort of the model I’ve always wanted for The Daily Strategist – an interactive one between you all and me. In the analyses below, I defined the uninformed bloc as those adults who “only now and then” or “hardly at all” follow government or public affairs (about one-third of the population). I used the American National Election Study (just like Bennett).
1. How likely are members of the uninformed bloc to vote? Appletini raised the point that if the uninformed don’t vote, then a lot of the fears I expressed go away, and Mark Paul and Mike N. also wondered what their voting rate was. The ANES shows that 61 percent of the uninformed said they vote, and another 17 percent said they were registered. These numbers are too high because of the well-known tendency of some respondents to say they voted in order not to look bad to the interviewer. But it seems highly likely that a majority voted in 2004. Still, among other adults, 84 percent said they voted and fully 95 percent said they were registered. So the voting rates of the uninformed bloc are much lower than for other adults.
Another way of expressing these patterns is to note that the uninformed bloc represents about one in four voters and 56 percent of nonvoters. Based on the apathy of the uninformed bloc, it does seem like mobilizing nonvoters is likely to be quite difficult, as “A political scientist” suggests.
2. Who did the uninformed vote for? Chris Glaze provides some cross-tabular evidence from the ANES and shows that the uninformed voted for Kerry. I found that when the uninformed are defined based on whether or not they know the Republicans are more conservative than Democrats (as Chris did), two thirds voted for Kerry. Presumably some of these people are disaffected Democrats who held their nose and voted for Kerry. When I defined the uninformed based on how closely they followed government, they split their vote evenly between Kerry and Bush (as did other adults). That means that the uninformed bloc is not the same as the “authoritarian bloc”, as John Clavis speculates, or the bloc of voters that still supports Bush, as DrBB half-seriously suggests as a possibility. It also implies that Rovian campaign tactics may not be as successful at winning these voters as one might have thought, or at least is no more effective than among informed voters.
The uninformed bloc made up one in four Bush voters as well as one in four Kerry voters.
3. How consistent are the uninformed over time? Given that the uninformed were less consistent in their positions across issues than other people, I wondered whether they were also less consistent over time. The ANES asked a few questions both before and after the election, so we can get some purchase on the answer. Thirteen percent of the uninformed said they were liberal in one survey but conservative in the other. But that was no different from the percentage of other adults. Nor were the uninformed more likely than other voters to rate Bush or Kerry warmly in one survey but coldly in the other. Finally, only eight percent of the uninformed said that they preferred diplomacy to military threats in one survey but contradicted themselves in the other, compared with 18 percent of other adults. Apparently, the views of the uninformed are just as consistent over time as the views of the informed.
Obviously this isn’t the last word on these questions. I’m planning to try a couple of other definitions and to tackle the views of the uninformed later this week. But in closing, I also wanted to warn that while it is easy to ridicule or denigrate what I have called the uninformed bloc, doing so is certainly counter-productive to building a Democratic majority. Most of us online are lucky enough to have the time and/or money to be somewhat obsessively political. Lots of us are childless, in school, or retired. Not everyone can spend enough time to inform themselves on political questions even if they want to. Just seemed worth mentioning….
by Scott Winship