Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Brains and politics

From The Political Brain by Drew Westen:
"[I]rrational commitment to rationality has rendered Democrats less, rather than more, likely to speak the truth. If you think about voters as calculating machines who add up the utility of your positions on 'the issues', you will invariably find yourself scouring the polls for your principles. And as soon as voters perceive you as turning to the opinion polls instead of your internal polls - your emotions, and particularly your moral emotions - they will see you as weak, waffling, pandering and unprincipled."

1 comment:

Nicolas Holzapfel said...

It's true; although of course following internal polls doesn't always lead to an endeared public either! It presumably wasn't external polls that led Tony Blair into the war in Iraq for example. Also if the external polls were simply ignored that wouldn't be particularly democratic!

Another problem with excessive reliance on polls is that people don't get much of an opportunity to think through their answers. Personally I find it ridiculous when polls expect me to be able to have a decisive opinion based on hearing a one-sentence question, without being given any of the relevant facts or different arguments. I'm sure polls would give very different results if they were more deliberative.