According to the Pew Research center, 55.7% of the U.S.
voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, much lower than other democratic countries. ( DeSilver, Drew 15 May 2017) This is nothing new, there has been a decline of voter turnout happening since the 1960’s and one of the reasons attributed to this was that U.S. citizens believe politics and government are so complicated that ordinary people could not understand them. (Niemi and Weisberg P72) In Zeller’s work The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, he speaks about elite discourse.
This, I would equate to the term “Fake News” which is used often these days. I would argue that most of our comprehension of policy topics is based on a limited and superficial understanding constructed around the ever changing way us as citizens gather and process information. According to Voting Correctly, classical democratic theory states that the more information we have the more “correct” decisions we can make as an informed electorate (Niemi and Weisberg p140). Although I believe this is being challenged by as mass amounts of information that is presented to us at once. Things like social media and the 24 hour news cycle are determinants to society’s views of a situation and plays off people’s cognitive limitations. As stated in Voting Correctly, modern cognitive psychology teaches us that humans are limited information processors (Niemi and Weisberg p140) I believe social media and the 24 hour news cycle brings forth an emotional reaction within the public physic instead of focusing time on the outcome of a policy and the repercussions after, weather that is in one’s eyes a “good” or “bad” thing. I believe that as a population there was more apathy in last years election because of the content of the constant news that was being presented at that time. With this being said, my question is:Does our cognitive limitations and the limited amount of time the elite discourse spends on questions of policy and the new ways we receive information relate to the overall apathy that people feel about political affairs these days?Do you think this is changing and Why? ( DeSilver, Drew.
“U.S. Trails Most Developed Countries in Voter Turnout.” Pew Research Center, 15 May 2017, www.pewresearch.
org/fact-tank/2017/05/15/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/.) Niemi, Richard G., and Herbert F. Weisberg. Controversies in Voting Behavior. CQ Press, 2001.