Uninformed and Misinformed Voters
In October 30th 2008, Peggy Joseph kept her daughter out of school so they could attend to attend a political rally together. She wanted her daughter to see and possibly meet the man that would soon be the next President of the United States. After the rally she was interviewed about the experience and in tears she proclaimed, “It was the most memorable experience of my life. It was a touching moment because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car; I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know, if I help him, he will help me.”
Here are some interesting statistics from the time frame of Peggy Joseph’s interview and Election Day January 20th 2008. On October 30th 2008 the unemployment rate was 6.5% (Bureau). The unemployment rate today is 9.0%. The price of a gallon of gas was $1.87 (Gas Buddy). The national average of a gallon of gas today is $3.25. The total number of families that lost their homes due to foreclosure in 2009 was 2.8 million. That is an increase of 21 percent from 2008 and 120 percent from 2007. Foreclosure rates were still rising to record levels in 2010 with an all time high of 3.8 million. (Foreclosure)
Peggy Joseph was mislead into thinking one politician was going to completely change her life. I am sure she assumed she was informed, but I am equally sure that Barack Obama has never pumped her gas or paid her mortgage and I am hoping that she was not one of the millions that lost their homes in the last three years.
Americans tend to be well informed on the issues that matter to them most and uninformed on the things that do not affect their daily life. Liberals and conservatives both approach politicians and issues on moral grounds but sometimes accuse each other of being immoral. They tend to never agree not because one or the other is immoral but because they approach morality from different points of view. Most liberals approach government as a means to take care of the people less fortunate than themselves. Using their morality they tend to vote for the politician or for an issue that, to them, makes the best case for what government can accomplish to make things right in the world, end hunger, world peace etc. Most Conservatives have a different moral compass, tending to believe government ultimately succeeds at meeting these needs but has severe unintended consequenses. Conservatives cast their votes for politicians that stress that self reliance and hard work are the best means of achieving these same goals. The majority of the liberals in America believe that people need a hand up and the majority of conservatives believe this hand up only creates a dependant class that will never reach their full potential. This makes both of them moral but still polar opposites on issues and candidates.
In my opinion uninformed citizens are not likely voters so they make themselves irrelevant. Would it do the union a service if they came to the voting booth and guessed at all the issues and candidates like a multiple choice quiz they neglected to study for? It is the misinformed voter that poses a threat. Candidates will promise things that they know they will never accomplish to get elected or stay in office and many are mislead into believing them. Mislead voters keep voting for the candidate that promises the most, but if they do not have a few hundred thousand to donate, their chosen politician rarely comes through for them.
Factual, non biased information is so hard to find that where would these well meaning citizens go to be informed if they sought to educate themselves? The internet is filled with misinformation, their friends will have a bias one way or the other, and talk radio is dominated by political pundits. Studying history of other civilizations that flourished or perished would be a good place to start. Educating oneself on policies instituted over the last few decades here at home and the outcome these policies had would bring much knowledge to a citizen that really wanted to see what worked well in the past to make an informed decision in the future, but that takes a lot of time and most people’s lives are busy trying to get by week to week without anything disastrous happening to themselves or their children.
Once upon a time people were informed on the issues and politicians by the news media. The news programs at 6 and 10pm would keep the people up to date on the latest issues and things that matter to their viewers. The new media today is not helping matters much. They are soft on issues and news but heavy on the juicy gossip. The major networks clearly have their own political leanings and actively support or tear down politicians that either agree or disagree with their own views. If you want dirt on a Republican just click over to ABC, NBC, CBS, or MSNBC and they will surely oblige, but rarely will they ever run a disparaging story on a Democrat before he already has one foot out the door. If it is democrat bashing you want, switch over to FOX news for a relentless pursuit of the dirty deeds of the liberal representatives. All the news networks inquire into the issues we all care about but they rarely give enough time to understand either side. They will normally have two commentators with opposing views and each one will have the opportunity to express their point of view, if of course they can explain an extremely complicated issue in half of the six minute span between the twelve commercials. It seems to me they are only allotted enough time for one to scream, “You Racist!” and the other to respond, You Marxist!”
So where does that leave us? We live in the land of liberty, the richest nation in the world. We live in a country where the poor have two cars, multiple cell phones, and are mostly a little overweight (Science Daily). Our forefathers served us well and many of us took full advantage of the opportunities they paved the way for. As a nation we are experiencing some troubling times, economic chaos, and polarizing issues that politicians use to split us up into as many groups as possible. By economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, or occupation they use any means necessary to divide us into easily managed groups of citizens that if united might throw all of them out of office where they would be forced to live under the tens of thousands of laws they have created. I, for one, believe the citizens among us that stay informed and vote will work through these issues. We will collectively make the right decisions, and leave this wonderful place we call America a little better off than it was when we found it, with or without the help of the uninformed.
(Bureau) Bureau of Labor Statistics, website accessed November 15th, 2011
(Gas Buddy) Gas Buddy, website accessed November 15th, 2011
(Foreclosure) U.S. 2009 foreclosures shatter record despite aid, website accessed November 15th, 2011
(Science Daily) Food Stamp Use Linked To Weight Gain, Study Finds, website accessed November 15th, 2011