Thursday, Oct. 09, 2008

What Kind of Voter Are You?

Deep in your brain, voting is just like buying cereal. You have a choice to make. You obtain information from the box, from experience, from commercials, from friends. You can't taste every cereal, so you end up buying the one you've always bought. In other words, you take a mental shortcut.

Despite polls showing that many people say they are following the presidential campaign closely, most Americans know little about politics. When faced with an important decision like picking a President, we often struggle to see through the blizzard of conflicting information. That's where shortcuts can come in. Political scientists Richard Lau at Rutgers and David Redlawsk at the University of Iowa have developed four models of how people actually pick candidates. No partisan or demographic group is predisposed to a particular model, and a voter might use different strategies for different contests.

More than 70% of the time, voters end up checking the box for the candidate who shares their views. But that still leaves a lot of people who should consider a longer road to the voting booth.