Study finds voting is superficial (REAL voting, not 'American Idol' voting)

Every vote counts, it's true. But where are voters getting the motivation to decide how to vote? What leading criteria determine who and what the voters choose to pull the levers for? (OK, nowadays, voters fill in little ovals with a pen or pencil, or complete arrows with a drawn line, but that's not as quaint as "pull the levers".) 

In the June 2010 edition of a behavior journal, it was suggested that appearances win. So the average person picks their candidates the way producers pick reality TV group members: on the shallowness of outward appearance. No surprise to me, "appearance is most likely to influence less knowledgeable voters who watch a lot of television," explains a science Web site,, in their piece on the behavior journal's article.  

I've voted for county, city or state positions when I had no idea who one candidate was from another. I've picked based on last names, or party, or if a name appealed to me in some way, like it rhymed, or looked classy, or seemed down to earth. Yeah, I'm not proud of any of that, but I know I am not alone in such banal decision-making among people who reject apathy. I've since avoided choosing at all if I had no clue; choices matter, and gross ignorance is not where votes should come from. It's not just the ignorance I demonstrated, but notable, commonplace stuff that translates into votes. 

How many of us, the electorate (note for habitually ignorant folks: that's a word for "people who can vote"), are sure we knew something useful and reliable about every single ballot choice in recent primaries? How about in the 2008 general election? So in part this behavior article tells us that in the 2008 U.S. presidential election the least informed chose between a fresh, young, silver-tongued black guy, and a crippled, raspy old white guy who's been around forever. 

Who were these people, do you think? First of all, who are the least informed, broadly? Second of all, how do you think they would vote? The young and generally distracted is who they are, and they would vote young and not crippled (crass kids do not care how shallow it is to mock a war veteran or any other stiff old guy, get real), don't you think? Most young punks would go for the fresh young black dude. Unless they've bought a Pat Boone album lately. Odds on that, anyone?

Am I saying Barack Obama, for one, is president in part because clueless young adults voted against the crusty old crippled guy? Am I saying that plenty of young people voted for the candidate that The Daily Show's Jon Stewart liked, and for the side who SNL didn't lampoon nearly every week? 

Youuuuu betcha!

Are voters truly sophisticated and rational decision makers? Apparently not. Their choices are heavily influenced by superficial, nonverbal cues, such as politicians' appearance, according to Christopher Olivola from University College London in the UK and Alexander Todorov from Princeton University in the US. According to their findings, voters make judgments about politicians' competence based on their facial appearance and these appearance-based competence judgments reliably predict both voting decisions and election outcomes. The research is published in the June 2010 issue of theJournal of Nonverbal Behavior.

The researchers also discuss the potential impact of these judgments on actual voters and show that appearance is most likely to influence less knowledgeable voters who watch a lot of television, a finding consistent with psychological models of persuasion.

Research to date suggests that rapid judgments about the personality traits of political candidates, based solely on their appearance, can predict their electoral success. In other words, voters rely heavily on appearances when choosing which candidate to elect. Since voters need to navigate their way through the flood of information available about candidates in order to make fully informed choices, it is no surprise that they take mental shortcuts to get to their final decision.

After reviewing the published literature on this topic, the authors then introduce a computer model of facial personality traits to identify the particular facial features associated with competence judgments. By manipulating the degree of competence of faces on a screen, they are able to show that facial maturity and physical attractiveness are the two main criteria used by participants to make competence judgments.

(Hit the link, above, to see the whole article.)

- jR

The Motley Fool's Rebuttal of the Latest of Krugman's "1938 in 2010" Twaddle

Historical government spending in the United S...Image via Wikipedia
Who you gonna believe? Some professional investors or a professional Keynesian? I'm going with the capitalists, and not the sour-faced NY Times columnist. (Note: bolding and links are mine.)

Krugman wrote another Op-Ed about his favorite subject "1937".  The year when the Fed Gov't cut back some spending and the economy faltered.  I've disputed this ludicrousness before, stating that if EIGHT years of spending didn't fix the problem, when in the hell is all this spending supposed to work? Let's also not forget that in 1934 the dollar was devalued by 50% and THAT didn't work.
In this particular Op-Ed he goes further, stating "From an economic point of view World War II was, above all, a burst of deficit-financed government spending, on a scale that would never have been approved otherwise. Over the course of the war the federal government borrowed an amount equal to roughly twice the value of G.D.P. in 1940 — the equivalent of roughly $30 trillion today". 
Pro-WWII end recession/depression economist LOVE to point out that huge spending on a massive scale ended the Great Depression.  I've spoken to many of these people before and asked them EXACTLY when this massive spending ended the Great Depression. There are only two answers: 1) When the war started 2) After the war ended
Let's tackle #1 first (When the war started).  These are the scariest people in the world today, because they don't believe in freedom in the least. 
You'll need to visit the site for the whole thing. More at the Motley site.

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Alan Grayson (Nut-job, FL District 8): Beck fans wore “sheets over their heads”

Alan Grayson: Glenn Beck fans wore "sheets over their heads"
Since his election two years ago, Orlando Democrat U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's fame has multiplied exponentially with every inflammatory remark.
Every time he says something like the Republicans' health care plan is to "die quickly" or that Dick Cheney is a vampire who should "STFU," he becomes a bigger hero to liberals and a bigger target of conservatives. Now there's another addition to the list of Grayson's greatest hits.
During an appearance on the progressive talk-radio "Stephanie Miller Show" on Thursday — part of a regular segment called "Face the Grayson" — the congressman likened those who attended Glenn Beck's rally last week at the Lincoln Memorial to Ku Klux Klan members.
Miller: "The Glenn Beck thing — is that going to have an effect in November? To me, they were, I'm sorry, mostly old, white … mostly McCain-Palin leftovers, weren't they? These aren't new voters, these are people that have always voted Republican."
Grayson: "These are people who were wearing sheets over their heads 25 years ago."
The congressman also repeated one of his recent favorites: "You only have three friends in life: God, your mama, and the Democratic Party."
You can listen to the whole 12-minute, 18-second segment below, if you scroll down on this widget and click on the "Face the Grayson" segment.
UPDATE: The Grayson campaign wanted to respond to, well, Grayson's own comment. So, here's an addition from campaign spokesman Sam Drzymala: "[Grayson opponent] Dan Webster should prove Representative Grayson wrong by rejecting the endorsement of David Barton, a man who has spoken at two neo-Nazi rallies, denies the Holocaust, and has led the effort to rewrite history books with a narrative of hate, fear, and discrimination."

Hello, Orlando? Get this kook out of office. Florida already has enough nuts in office, doesn't need this one. Accepting an endorsement or not is far from being in the same court as that person. But Webster ought to reject that guy's endorsement, if the claims of his practices are true.

 - jR