The well-respected Pew Research Center published a report on its recent survey of the political attitudes of the so-called millennial voters (young people who came of age in the first decade of this millennium). Pew noted that “their attachment to the Democratic Party weakened markedly over the course of 2009”, although a majority of them still hew to the progressive talking points if not its deeper philosophy. The noteworthy output from the survey was the “marked” reduction of those still enthralled with Team Obama.
What I found remarkable in Pew’s report was the large plurality (2/3) of Millennials who were successfully taken by Obama’s campaign message. The results overall seem to corroborate the conclusion of the research reported by Bryan Caplan in his The Myth of the Rational Voter – Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. I expanded on this theme in the 14may09 ‘Republicans Need a New Strategy’ post and elsewhere on RR.
Apparently many of these Obama supporters were also voting in their first election, being encouraged to do so by the various get-out-the-vote machinery (e.g. Acorn, SEIU) that Obama’s campaign so successfully marshaled in its behalf. Caplan argued that the long accepted Principle of Aggregation, which gives more weight to the small number of knowledgeable voters, no longer holds. He presented evidence that the well financed media campaigns directed at potential voters with little knowledge of the issues or history would today easily overwhelm the slim victory inducing margins of knowledgeable voters. Today, the informationally short voters no longer split themselves more or less equally in their historically random voting patterns. In short, as go the dummies, so goes the nation.
I think the Pew results, together with Caplan’s research, support the intuitive conclusions of most students of the American scene, especially those of the conservative-libertarian bent. The bottom line is that our educational system’s much documented ideological biases and pedagogical shortcomings now influence the vote as never before. It is in this light that we should all interpret the renewal of the intense fight over campaign financing that will hit its high notes this year. Money matters more than the message.