Prima Facie: Using Children to Predict Election Outcomes

I think the linked article helps mitigate some of our puzzlement and surprize about the outcomes of some elections and voting results, and I believe it adds a powerful prediction tool to our tool bag. I do not think anyone wants to become a "cognitive miser" as described in the article.

I must say that a lot of the research of this type is very interesting to peruse but leaves me rather dubious about the "predictive" power of the results. Recently I looked at a study that seemed to suggest being popular was linked to living longer.

In listening to discussions of how people intend to vote, I have not ever heard anyone mention "competence" as a key issue. That does not mean the author is wrong. People may indeed subconsciously strongly factor perceptions of competence into voting decisions.

My more serious reservation is the campaigns do not typically package "competence" as the central attribute of a candidate and I suspect it is because what their research suggests. The commentariat, by contrast, does focus a lot on competence.

Recently, I read a very interesting proposal about how elections should be conducted. Instead of our traditional approach, all candidates would be anonymous and campaigning would be conducted through the presentation of policy proposals. Thus voters would decide on issues rather than personalities. Obviously, this will never happen in practice but it does raise the interesting question: are the voters voting for the singer, or the song?

"Studying real voters, they found that appearance affects only those who know next to nothing about politics."

To my understanding. the findings discussed in the article only apply to a very small, usually insignificant segment of people who vote, the people who know next to nothing about politics, the candidates, the issues that are at stake, or the political parties involved. Their vote is not based upon any knowledge, but upon unconscious, snap judgements derived from pictures or video images of the candidates they must choose between. And, as I understand it, the votes from this small segment of "unknowlegable" voters only becomes significant when their votes can determine the outcome of close elections.--"In close races, unknowledgeable or ‘appearance-based’ voters can sway the outcome of the races."

"Competency" does not enter the minds of these voters in that their snap judgement, appearance-based vote is simply a cognitive process that happens unawares. Thus, if the findings mentioned in the article have some truth, it might be a good idea to take them into account when close elections or propositions are being voted on. The fact that we have probably all known a voter or two of this ilk, perhaps oneself on occasion, does not mean that they are always insignificant.

"Thus voters would decide on issues rather than personalities" In California, if by some miracle, a person could hide from the TV, radio, news, billboards, and all other methods of influencing their votes, and had a few months free time to study the issues before voting on propositions, then personalities would not be involved. Hermits?

Since I know nothing about psychology, I am unsure how voters actually choose a candidate.

Recently I was at a nice restaurant (truly rare event) and could not decide whether to have something that was familiar to me or something that I would like to try but might regret selecting.

Had it been a cheap restaurant I probably would have experimented but instead I went with the familiar.

I would be at a total loss to explain how I made the choice and not sure whether I should be upset at myself for being so timid:(

Does this mean I would be disposed to select a candidate that is familiar to me even though I might like to see what a less familiar candidate would achieve? Would I be more likely to go with an unfamiliar candidate in a less important local race than a Presidential election?

Yes! :slight_smile: Unfortunately, it seems that some voters have a hard time determining which is which.

Your question reminds me, in a way, of the old game show The Dating Game. Contestants answered questions but they were not in view of the person picking who would win, until after the winner was selected... which made for some interesting results but no recall elections, recounts, or Supreme Court appeals.

Interesting comparison.:slight_smile:

In thinking about this a little further, it occurred to me that here in the US the model may be even less applicable because of the system of primaries.

There are many states where gerrymandering is so pervasive that any voter who has a party alignment needs to make a choice at that point since typically such voters (who are the bulk of the electorate) normally vote for the party nominee in the general election.

I have always thought the system of debates is silly since it does not matter what question is asked, the candidates simply regurgitate the prepared talking points in some form of other.

It would be both more entertaining and certainly more informative if the process were changed to a format that required the candidates to actually reveal themselves.

Here are some suggestions. Each candidate would be in a booth and unable to hear what other candidates said. Everyone would be asked the same questions and/or asked to perform the same tasks.

For instance:

  1. solve the latest Sudoku puzzle from a major newspaper

  2. answer Spelling Bee questions

  3. review a cell carrier's plans and indicate which one is the best deal and why

  4. answer random questions about geography (capitals of countries etc)

  5. write a Haiku

  6. explain in plain English what a randomly selected passage from a recently enacted statute meant

  7. cook an omelet

  8. demonstrate a talent (sing, dance, play an instrument, juggle, etc)

  9. answer questions about nutritional values

  10. diagnose an internet connectivity problem

Other things that might be considered would be performing push-ups, wrapping a gift, and assembling a piece of furniture from Ikea.

Voters always say they want candidates who understand their issues. The system is set up in such a way that voters never see the candidates in a situation that is realistic. Something like the above would allow voters to see candidates as real people rather than actors in a scripted performance.

I think you two are on to something that might be a huge success. Just a suggestion: how about Oprah Winfrey as the host and executive producer, who, from a marketing perspective, could bring in a huge amount of viewers.

Obviously, the post was tongue-in-cheek but it had a serious undertone. If we are going to get different outcomes, we need to change our approach. The first step is to change voter behavior.

Take the current bitter confrontation over the ACA versus the ACHA where all that matters is who can shout the loudest.

The reality is they both have positive features and both are terrible from a public policy perspective but their worst effects would appear in different time intervals.

The problem is both deal with the demand side of the problem. The ACA handles that by effectively making insurance affordable for most people. On the other hand the ACHA handles it by pricing insurance at close to market rates thereby making it impossible for huge numbers of people to afford it.

Any solution (as Alfred Marshall pointed out years ago) requires using both sides of the scissors and not just one. The supply side cannot be ignored.

We fret about the horrors of socialized medicine coming to the US when in fact that is the system we actually have since the price control days of World War except we do not call it that because the mechanics are not transparent and the actual services are provided by the private sector predominantly.

Right now roughly 120 million Americans get their health care through Medicaid or Medicare (including the "Duals"). Most everyone else who has access to health care gets a huge part of its cost paid by Uncle Sam through tax expenditures which are funded by ever-increasing levels of debt. A significant number of Americans have no access to health care at all.

So in essence we have the very worst type of socialized medicine--one that is extraordinarily expensive and whose long-term costs are unsustainable, which excludes whole sections of the population and produces outcomes that are no better (and often worse) than what other countries achieve for half the cost while covering more of the population. An incompetent "central committee" could not have designed a worse system.:slight_smile:

As long as we continue focusing on the ACA versus ACHA rather than the actual problem, the unfunded liabilities (the real threat to the nation) will continue to rise. At some point the foreign debt holders will decide either for political or financial reasons that enough is enough. One thing is certain. If we get to that stage it really will not matter very much whether polling results about peoples' views showed the ACA was more popular than the ACHA or the opposite.:frowning:

Copy that.
Oldbooks1 wrote: At some point the foreign debt holders will decide either for political or financial reasons that enough is enough. One thing is certain. If we get to that stage it really will not matter very much whether polling results about peoples' views showed the ACA was more popular than the ACHA or the opposite.:frowning:

I know little about the rise and fall of great civilizations, empires, or nations, but I suspect that all of the fallen ones did not see or were not able to avert the causes of their demise. I'm afraid that America, which not long ago, was the envy, in so many respects, of most of the world, but has now declined, by most objective measures, in so many areas, may well be on a path to join the fallen. The fact that we don't seem to be able to rationally discuss, let alone solve, what appear to be not impossible problems, might be a signpost pointing to the demise. Perhaps we are so imprisoned by a few ideologies that we are unable to see the other ways leading to solutions. Seriously.