Sunday, November 23, 2008


Ignorance and the Obama Vote

The video at bottom is merely anecdotal evidence of ignorance among Obama supporters but it is backed by a scientific poll conducted by the respected polling firm, Zogby International. Below is an excerpt from a news release on the Zogby web site.
Ninety-four percent of Obama voters correctly identified Palin as the candidate with a pregnant teenage daughter, 86% correctly identified Palin as the candidate associated with a $150,000 wardrobe purchased by her political party, and 81% chose McCain as the candidate who was unable to identify the number of houses he owned. When asked which candidate said they could "see Russia from their house," 87% chose Palin, although the quote actually is attributed to Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey during her portrayal of Palin during the campaign. An answer of "none" or "Palin" was counted as a correct answer on the test, given that the statement was associated with a characterization of Palin.

Obama voters did not fare nearly as well overall when asked to answer questions about statements or stories associated with Obama or Biden -- 83% failed to correctly answer that Obama had won his first election by getting all of his opponents removed from the ballot, and 88% did not correctly associate Obama with his statement that his energy policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry. Most (56%) were also not able to correctly answer that Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of Obama voters did not correctly identify Biden as the candidate who had to quit a previous campaign for President because he was found to have plagiarized a speech, and nearly half (47%) did not know that Biden was the one who predicted Obama would be tested by a generated international crisis during his first six months as President.

In addition to questions regarding statements and scandals associated with the campaigns, the 12-question, multiple-choice survey also included a question asking which political party controlled both houses of Congress leading up to the election -- 57% of Obama voters were unable to correctly answer that Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.
John Ziegler, who commissioned the poll and produced the video, makes hay with the results on FWIW, I suspect that ignorance among McCain voters is just as common as it is among Obama voters and Ziegler actually tried to commission a Zogby poll to test that idea but Zogby reportedly refused.

See also: No, Dear, Barack Obama is NOT The Messiah

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Demonstrating the ignorance of any particular group of voters isn't very difficult, however, demonstrating that a group of voters is more ignorant about Obama and Biden than they are about McCain and Palin requires that similarly difficult question be asked about both sets of candidates. Ziegler's questions about McCain and Palin all concerned statements and events that arose during the last three months of the campaign. The questions about Obama and Biden included more obscure statements from six to nine months earlier as well as events that occurred ten and twenty years ago. Asking the same questions of McCain voters would not have yielded more meaningful results although answers to a better crafted set of questions might have been interesting if asked of both sides.
The poll was ostensibly aimed at measuring the knowledge of not merely a "particular group of voters" but the largest segment of the voting population--those who voted for Obama. If it was properly designed and executed then the voters who responded should comprise a representative sample of Obama voters and the results should be generalizable to all Obama voters. From what I've seen from the Zogby people this seems to be the case.

The clincher for me was that "57% of Obama voters were unable to correctly answer that Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate." I agree though that the same set of question would not have worked well for McCain voters--I don't think Zogby or Zeigler suggested otherwise. It would have been better if Zeigler had commissioned a well-designed poll to be administered simultaneously to both Obama and McCain voters.
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