Is the Electorate Educated Enough to Understand the Complex Issues It's Voting On?

I don’t know about others, but I’m feeling overwhelmed with the volume of information coming out surrounding the upcoming November election. I can only imagine how the average voter is feeling.

Traditionally the American electorate usually doesn’t become involved in presidential election politics until after the national party conventions. However, with the political atmosphere since the election of Barack Obama, it is hard to imagine that voters aren’t, at least to some extent, engaged. Here in Wisconsin we have been highly politicized since the election of November 2010. But, does being politicized translate to being informed?

It seems to me that with 24/7 news coverage, widespread immediate Internet access and social media; we, the public, are being buried in an avalanche of information. Normally, we would say that this is a good thing; but, in this case it is turning out to be an unexpected consequence of the Information Age and too much information becomes non-productive.  

“Back in the day”, as kids are prone to say; information had to be ferreted out using traditional research methods. Through my formal education and beyond, I have invested 1000s of hours in the research process and at times became a permanent fixture in libraries wherever I resided. As I became Internet competent, I too switched from library book and article research over to reliance on search engines. This has resulted in speeding up the research process, making it more productive. However, from my decades of library work, I had learned the methods for performing an effective and efficient search; beginning with the ability to ask the “right” questions.

It’s funny, that today many students entering into colleges or universities must be taught how to use a research library and how to validate information.

Asking the “right” questions is critical to the information gained. If I ask the wrong question, then the outcome will not render the truth that I am seeking. Asking that question requires much forethought and a process of self-examination. Knowing that personal biases, perceptional lens and worldviews will impact the question, then it is imperative to frame the question absent, of the preconceived garbage and let the research lead where it leads.  This is the current problem in the lightening speed information access that most people engage in; they don’t purge themselves first and only engage in research that validates their preconceived beliefs.

The world is awash with information that misrepresents, misdirects, misinforms and in many instances are outright lies. This is the reason that college students are cautioned not to use certain sources because of their unreliability. The information spin engineers count on the volume of information to help camouflage their claims and make it difficult to trace information. It is so bad that now we have to have independent verifiers to judge the veracity of claims and information. It seems that the more complex the issue/s the more difficult it is to get to the truth. With the difficulty to verify and the natural human tendency to only validate preconceived beliefs; how is it possible for the average voter to make a well-informed decision?

Since the US Supreme Court ruled in the favor of Citizens United, the campaign ad situation has gone from bad to worse. With the flood of money it has created conditions where it is even more difficult to trace those who are financing the messaging. As far as factual information, with third parties controlling the content, the messages are becoming more and more fictitious.

In an election with so much on the line, it has become almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, leaving the average voting citizen in a difficult place. Political party pieces are not quite as bad as third party ads for truthful content, but they spin information in such a way as to misdirect information and control the desired message in their favor. The information overload and information manipulation has led to a serious problem; general information distrust.

The voter, who is not a political wonk, will be forced to do the best they can. To answer my own question; I don’t think that the average voter can be expected to ferret out the truth and will be forced to vote based on their own biases and beliefs. The election in November might as well be a crapshoot. Whoever comes out on top will be based not so much on message but on the voter’s preconceived beliefs.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bernard Forand August 22, 2012 at 05:15 PM
@ red also commented on Is the Electorate Educated Enough to Understand "It is a liberal fiction that conservatives seek to end entitlements. What conservatives want same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” –Thomas Jefferson" Bernie replies; Contradiction here there through out your comment. One; Conservative want entitlements to be frugal. Top ten oil companies in 2010 paid zero taxes, refunded tax returns for each in the multimillions. Welfare [entitlements] in the Multibillions. 1.2 % of our populace hording 40% of nations wealth. Just gathering moth balls. Taxes paid less than 14% if that. Main street USA paying up to 35%. USA held hostage for the elitist demands for ransom. Time for a cool , cool, cool change. Elitist sit on their Olympian mount amusing themselves watching those that fall prey to Maidus’ treacherous shoals of the cronyism’s Wall Street fortress. “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” –Thomas Jefferson" Do you even read the words you use? I would define ..”Ruled by a small elite” as the 1.2 % that hoard the 40% of wealth, of our USA, as the small elite. Same one’s that own those oil companies and charged their debt for their derivative trading failures to our Main Street USA to the tune of $11Trillion.!
Randy1949 August 22, 2012 at 05:21 PM
"Lyle's juxtaposition of the preposition is awkward and adds nothing to the title." The alternative would be even more awkward and wordy. A general 'guideline' of good writing style, especially in titles, is not to tie yourself in knots.
Bernard Forand August 22, 2012 at 10:38 PM
@ Brian Dey also commented on Is the Electorate Educated Enough to Understand the Complex Issues It's Voting On?. "Lyle, Cont... And please stop whining about Congress. His first two years he had majorities in both chambers. Half of his Presidency he owned everything and the only thing we got was Obamacare which the majority in every singel poll taken, don't want and that spite of Obama policies. You lefties keep pointing to the tax policies but there was nothing wrong with the policies. The raising of the revenues is the problem and your guy wants to spend more. 24% of GDP is government spending under Obama and it was 19.9% under Bush, and the highest since the World War II era. But why be confused by facts, Lyle." Bernie replies; Only thing we got was Obamacrae? Duhh where have you been? Go do your own research as anyone with a tad of knowledge of the polices that were passed in those two years makes out as a liar. Sinle poll that did not show positive for Obama was Rammusin a right field poll. Even Fox Network has Romney at 40% and Obama at 49% the rest of your trash is just that trash. Did you hear about Katrina taking out all those make believe democrats. How could YOUR polls mess up so bad? Your comments are moot.
Bryant Divelbiss August 23, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Lyle, Obama still only needed 1 moderate GOP member like Susan Collins who is essentially a Democrat in most states. Thus until 2011 the GOP could only stop extreme radical and stupid ideas like cap & trade. Also realistically they did very little in congress to deal with the financial crisis. the stimulus was designed to pay supporters rather than stimulate jobs. Their entire focus then was their radical health care agenda after that. Their agenda in2010 was anti-recovery and prevented a better recovery expected by financial experts, but they did not calculate how radical and stupid the Democrats would be even after the warning shot of the Scott Brown win.
Randy1949 August 23, 2012 at 02:26 AM
@Bryant -- I hope you realize that cap & trade was originally a GOP idea, as was the individual insurance mandate. I guess it only becomes stupid and radical when it's the other party doing it.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »