What I've Been Saying for Weeks - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
What I’ve Been Saying for Weeks

Whenever I try to make this point, my more intellectual friends sneer that I’m just being a know-nothing populist, but here is University of Maryland professor James G. Gimpel:

For 50 years now, survey research has suggested just that: It is, in fact, wrong, because there is no coherent center. There are no fixed, well-considered policy positions in the center to which voters there adhere.

The research suggests that those who at various times occupy this center, often described as moderates or independents, are not very knowledgeable about or interested in politics. They do not follow campaign coverage closely, are inconsistent in their policy views, and are often not able to identify what positions are liberal or conservative.
What characterizes the centrist voter is not some peculiar set of policy positions, but rather ignorance of policy issues in general, coupled with vague impressions of the “goodness” or “badness” of the times. So-called centrist or moderate voters can’t even be counted on to vote.

This relates to the Samuel Popkin “low-information rationality” theory I referenced yesterday. Making an ideological or policy-specific interpretation of election results ignores the fact that independent voters decide elections and these voters are generally the least-informed members of the electorate.

It’s like the $700 billion bailout. The Ordinary American doesn’t know the intricate details of the financial crisis, but he can figure out that the government is giving a fat wad of cash to a bunch of high rollers who’ve already screwed up big-time, and he doesn’t like it. It is not lowbrow populism to tell this voter, “Yeah, you’re right,” because there are plenty of respectable economists who say the bailout was a lousy idea. But if you incorrectly assume that the independent voter is a “centrist,” you’re going to miss the chance to make the libertarian populist argument.

Robert Stacy McCain
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