He points to a study that shows that respondents who were given more time to respond and/or a financial reward for correct answers performed better than a control group of respondents who had only a minute to respond (and no reward).
The post is worth a look, but reading it brought to mind a bigger dilemma that I face a political analyst and political scientist-to-be.
I find it exceedingly difficult to understand the thinking of the “average” voter not just in Japan, but in my own country. As someone whose days are spent following the news and reading and writing commentary, I find it impossible to imagine what facts, ideas, and prejudices shape voter decisions, and as this study shows, the US news media — which often reports on surveys illustrating the ignorance of the American people and I suspect skews its political coverage accordingly — probably doesn’t have any better idea about what voters think.
That said, as Professor Sides notes, “If the average respondent in every group answered about 5 or 6 out of 14 questions, is this ‘sweeping generalization’ really that inaccurate? Is most of the variance in knowledge really explained by, well, knowledge, rather than by a lack of effort or ability to recall the answers correctly?”
I don’t doubt that the average voter, who maybe glances at the headlines of the daily newspaper a few times a week and watches a few minutes of evening news a week, has a limited knowledge of political trivia, but what does that mean for voting behavior? Do ignorant voters equal bad voters?