Not much has changed in 50 years.
So a bunch of academics decides to revisit one of the defining books of modern American politics, a 1960 tome on the electorate. They spend years comparing interviews with voting-age Americans from 2000 and 2004 to what Americans said during elections in the 1950s. The academics' question: How much has the American voter changed over the past 50 years?
Their conclusion -- that the voter is pretty much the same dismally ill-informed creature he was back then -- continues a decades-long debate about whether Americans are as clueless as they sound.
Reader, before you send that outraged e-mail, consider that you may be an exception. You, of course, are endlessly fascinated by the debate over domestic wiretapping, but it's possible your neighbors think FISA is a hybrid vehicle. In fact, it's quite possible your neighbors are Republicans only because that's what their parents were, and ditto for the Democrats across the street. They couldn't even mumble a passable definition of "liberal" or "conservative."
Which explains why non-internet-addicted people aren't paying attention to politics at the moment.
Funniest memory-inspired part of the piece:
But wait, says Amy Gershkoff, who wrote her Princeton dissertation on issues and voting behavior and now advises left-of-center campaigns on how to target voters. She's got her own sports metaphor. Just as Beltway junkies know far more about policy issues than the average voter, baseball junkies know far more statistics than she does. But she still loves to watch the Yankees.
"Even though I can't rattle off the batting averages of every person on the team and every person on every other team doesn't mean that I can't derive pleasure from the game," she says.
In other words, Gershkoff says, she knows enough. Many Americans vote primarily because of one or two or three issues, she says. They might care a whole lot about health care or prayer in schools and not at all about foreign policy, and maybe that leaves them sounding dumb when they're asked about Iraq. But they know enough about the issues they care about, and that's what they vote on.
My first husband was a sports editor, so we spent a lot of time at sporting events. One day, we were sitting in the outfield at a Texas Rangers game and I said that the left fielder for the opposing team looked familiar. My ex raised an eyebrow and said, "He should. He played for the Rangers last year." ;)