Here are two recent pieces of research I came across that demonstrate the need for far greater voter education, if not qualification.
Your biceps affect how you vote
At least, if you’re a man they do. The fantastically-named Michael Bang Petersen (Aarhus University) and Daniel Sznycer (University of California, Santa Barbara) have produced this paper which suggests that a male voter’s upper body strength influences their opinions over redistributive tax-and-spend policies.
Based on data of “bicep size, socioeconomic status, and support for economic redistribution from hundreds of people in the United States, Argentina, and Denmark”, they found that physically weaker men across the board were more likely to support redistribution, whilst stronger men supported self-interest (even controlling for party affiliation). This is striking, given the wide differences between the three countries’ welfare systems.
Interestingly, they found no such trend among women. The psychologists have an evolutionary explanation for all of this, which doesn’t concern me – what concerns me is the extent to which such psychological hangups continue to affect democracy without voters’ awareness, or rational explanation.
We don’t recognise most politicians
A recent YouGov poll shows that a third of voters can’t recognise Ian Duncan Smith (of massive welfare-cutting and figure-twisting fame), a third can’t place Ed Balls (the architect of the main economic alternative for the country), a third can’t recognise Theresa May (possible future PM, champion of the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ and captain of shutting the borders).
It gets worse. 60% of us cannot recognise Michael Gove, who’s making the biggest changes to education for a generation. Only 23% of us spot Andrew Lansley, despite the media’s almighty hoo-hah around his NHS reorganisation.
Sadly Chris Grayling, quite possibly the scariest of the Tory raft and worst Justice Secretary in living memory, was not on YouGov’s poll. If you need a hint, he looks like a young Emperor Palpatine, but in a suit. The force is strong in that one.
Do loads of pressups or run for the hills.