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Politics Science

"Choice Blindness" Can Transform Conservatives Into Liberals - and Vice Versa 542

Posted by samzenpus
from the yes-we-are-all-individuals dept.
ananyo writes "When U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney said last year that he was not even going to try to reach 47% of the US electorate, and that he would focus on the 5–10% thought to be floating voters, he was articulating a commonly held opinion: that most voters are locked in to their ideological party loyalty. But Lars Hall, a cognitive scientist at Lund University in Sweden, knew better. When Hall and his colleagues tested the rigidity of people's political attitudes and voting intentions during Sweden's 2010 general election, they discovered that loyalty was malleable: nearly half of all voters were open to changing their minds. Hall's group polled 162 voters during the final weeks of the election campaign, asking them which of two opposing political coalitions — conservative or social democrat/green — they intended to vote for. The researchers also asked voters to rate where they stood on 12 key political issues, including tax rates and nuclear power. The person conducting the experiment secretly filled in an identical survey with the reverse of the voter's answers, and used sleight-of-hand to exchange the answer sheets, placing the voter in the opposite political camp. The researcher invited the voter to give reasons for their manipulated opinions, then summarized their score to give a probable political affiliation and asked again who they intended to vote for. On the basis of the manipulated score, 10% of the subjects switched their voting intentions, from right to left wing or vice versa. Another 19% changed from firm support of their preferred coalition to undecided. A further 18% had been undecided before the survey, indicating that as many as 47% of the electorate were open to changing their minds, in sharp contrast to the 10% of voters identified as undecided in Swedish polls at the time (research paper). Hall has used a similar sleight of hand before to show that our moral compass can often be easily reversed."
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"Choice Blindness" Can Transform Conservatives Into Liberals - and Vice Versa

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:15PM (#43429245)

    The mentality between countries are enormous. For example Canada seems like the US but it isn't. Canada thinks the US are evil and sue-happy. They are very liberal because they don't want to become what the US is. I'm not joking, this is pretty much the general consensus on why people vote liberal in Canada from the people I've talked to. Being raised there, I know this mentality well too. But in the US, there's a huge barrier between left and right. The left want their set of ideologies to be met, and the right want their own. The differences are too vast, but the ones that aren't democrat or republican will stick around even as for an independent party. But let's face it, at the end of the day an individual vote does not matter. The united states is a republic, not a democracy.

    • by niftydude (1745144) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:08PM (#43429461)

      The mentality between countries are enormous.

      This. Sweden has one of the most educated populations in the world - Tertiary education costs something like 200 euros a year, and so university degrees are not just for the wealthy.

      In New York, people will peg you as being a democrat or a republican based on what paper you happen to be reading on the subway. Some of them will get angry about it. Swedish society is far more civil.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Friday April 12, 2013 @12:01AM (#43429727) Journal

        "Sweden has one of the most educated populations in the world"

        Yet they can't see that answered they just gave to a test have been changed and they defend the new answers? Perhaps they should go back for quality education rather than just most.

        • They're Swedes. Of course half of them are too drunk to remember how they answered a question (assuming they wait long enough for it to fall out of short term memory).

          Had they repeated the test in Finland fully 75% would defend whatever you told them they had said earlier.

      • by sycodon (149926)

        If we had a Swedish Bikini Team, we'd be more civil also.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Yeah in the US politics is like pro-wrestling. Just a lot less ethical but with more nukes involved.

      You'll have supporters and commentators on both sides yelling how great their "wrestler" is and how the other one is bad and doing bad stuff, and then when their wrestler does the same stuff they say it's OK.

      For many the party affiliation is like a religion. Which is why I find it funny that so many Atheists think that getting rid of religion will solve problems. Many people have a need to be rabid fundamenta
    • Ok but that's not correct in terms of US politics. The point is Mitt didn't think he needed to build any bridges to the left to win, that the swing voters would be enough. He was wrong, he lost. This may be the anomaly: that someone would blatantly be on a platform of "screw half of you". He really thought he'd win, and he was close enough to be scary.

      The US is known for very individualistic thinking, that's what differentiates us from many countries. The upside to individualism is that generally personal f

  • by mutantSushi (950662) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:18PM (#43429263)
    So it seems the study basically is demonstrating that some people are more amenable to a symbol of authority telling them what they actually think/believe. Although the extent to which it is important that the authority is perceived to be 'neutral' isn't clear from the study.
  • by howardd21 (1001567) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:24PM (#43429293) Homepage
    Because of the slight of hand and then confrontation, I would think it is more like people just rationalize the circumstances and then seek to defend the supposed position they took (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationalization_(making_excuses)) I also wonder if the researcher had any white lab coat, etc. that made them seem more authoritative?

    What I do not see is an actual change of opinion.
  • My observation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:25PM (#43429301)

    One thing I've noticed (read: pure anecdote) is that most people who are enthusiastic about their party don't behave much differently from sports fans of opposing teams. It doesn't really matter what their side does, what matters is which letter wins the game. Even on Slashdot I've confronted a few people who say "well my side never does x abhorrent behavior" when all of ten seconds worth of Google found the opposite.

    Personally I simply avoid registering to vote because all that happens is I get calls from people telling me to vote for their guy and they can't really explain why. For example I got a call from somebody on Matt Salmon's team telling me that they would repeal Obama Care, and lower medical costs through deregulation. Being a libertarian, that is music to my ears because I know from experience that red tape does raise costs in the medical field significantly. However when I asked what he would deregulate and how that would help, he didn't even know. But he expects me to vote for his guy anyways.

    No thanks. I'd only register to vote if there was actually a significant movement to balance the budget and prevent what I see as an otherwise inevitable catastrophic economic collapse. I don't think that will ever happen though. Once you add social entitlements, no matter how unsustainable or unaffordable, they're basically impossible to get rid of. The best you can do is hedge your assets (gold is a horrible idea BTW) and grab your ankles.

    • Re:My observation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:20PM (#43429533) Homepage Journal

      most people who are enthusiastic about their party don't behave much differently from sports fans of opposing teams.

      An important point. Politics is almost entirely tribal. We can see people voting against their best interests distributed evenly across the political spectrum (including so-called libertarian). And not just voting against their best interests, but even voting against their own firmly held beliefs.

      The thing that concerns me almost as much is how much of politics is about being a jerk. Holding a position because it will piss off somebody from the other tribe. Notice how being [conservative, liberal] means that you have to adopt an entire menu of positions, not because you have formed opinions on all of those issues, but because that's what people of the tribe believe.

      I'm pretty sure I don't have to point out any examples of this to most of you. It's so obvious as to be startling. That's why it makes news when someone from one political tribe suddenly adopts a position of the other tribe (for example, Rob Portman supports gay marriage). It's news because that's not a position a conservative is supposed to have and he is criticized. The notion that there are clearly delineated "conservative" or "liberal" positions that have to always go together and that people always have to run with the tribe is a hallmark of American politics at least.

      It's also a hallmark of a population that's being manipulated. So why the tribes squabble over these territorial trivialities, the people who actually have power are cleaning out the vaults. Does anyone actually believe that we are an exactly 50/50 split country? And yet, that's how it's been working out for decades now. It just smells wrong.

      Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you are on, when something bothers you, always ask yourself "Who's really benefiting? You may be surprised at how often the answer is the same people, and they don't belong to either tribe.

      • Re:My observation (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ArsonSmith (13997) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:49PM (#43429683) Journal

        I look at it more of a game of tug-of-war with a multi-pointed star of rope. Society is the knot floating in the middle of the star and the extremists trying to pull it in their direction. I jump on the Libertarian side and pull hard, not because I want a Libertarian utopian anarchy, but because I think the center of the star has floated a bit to far over the totalitarian side then I am comfortable with. If it moves back in the Liberty direction then I'd be less likely to tug as hard and more likely to enjoy that society has given me nice roads and at least a basically educated populace.

      • by bogjobber (880402)
        I think people are a bit more intelligent than you're giving them credit (some at least, I don't doubt that a fair amount of the electorate is truly tribal although that is a difficult thing to quantify). Politics is, well, politics. It's horse-trading. You sometimes vote for a candidate that holds views you dislike because he will advance certain agendas that you care about.

        For example, I voted for Obama in the last election. It's not because I thought he was a great candidate. I hate many of his
        • Your mistake was voting for the lesser evil because you wanted to vote for someone who might win. That is the surest way to waste your vote in the american system.

          Parties do not change when they get votes, they only change when they do not get votes. So vote your conscience. If you think you are more a Green than any other party, then you should have voted for the Green candidate. They have had a presidential candidate for the last 5 elections.

          It does not matter that the Green candidate won't win. What

      • Wait, we are supposed to vote for our best interests? Here I am voting for people that claim to believe that all people should be treated equally under the law. I should be voting for the guy that promises jobs and special rights for middle aged white guys at the expense of everyone else. Also since I don't use drugs I guess my pro drug legalization position is wrong as well. Wow, it's all so clear now! I don't have to look at secondary and tertiary effects of policies to see how they will work in the real

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'd only register to vote if there was actually a significant movement to balance the budget ...

      Well, balancing the budget is just, to put it bluntly, a really bad idea. There's a reason companies will frequently borrow to expand themselves. It is often the case that to do so produces better returns than the interest/dividends rates one has to pay on those loans/dividends/whatever. By the same token, government action into funding research (which leads to people/companies expanding the economy) and socia

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AlphaWolf_HK (692722)

        Well, balancing the budget is just, to put it bluntly, a really bad idea. There's a reason companies will frequently borrow to expand themselves. It is often the case that to do so produces better returns than the interest/dividends rates one has to pay on those loans/dividends/whatever. By the same token, government action into funding research (which leads to people/companies expanding the economy) and social programs (which provide a base framework of funding to keep the economic engine running even in bad times) can well pay for themselves. How do I know this to be true? Because rather consistently while the US debt has grown, the GDP has grown at a faster rate.

        Actually that isn't the case at all. The budget deficit is increasing faster than the GDP is growing.

        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fc/U.S._Total_Deficits_vs._National_Debt_Increases_2001-2010.png [wikimedia.org]

        This means that the debt keeps getting bigger and bigger, even adjusting for inflation. When a company becomes heavily in debt, shows only the possibility of increasing debt, and its assets can't be liquidated to make up for that debt, the debtors begin to lose trust that this company will ever repay it

  • by jd.schmidt (919212) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:30PM (#43429331)

    If your eyes have been open, it is pretty clear very many people are no longer using any kind of logic. Most political attitudes today are tribally based. Very rarely do people honestly consider what the other person is saying.

    • September 26, 1960. The debate between JFK and Nixon proves it. Those that listened on the radio though Nixon was the clear winner. Those that watched on TV though JFK won. Handsome good looks and demeanor captured the emotion. But on radio, Nixon was thought to have had more substance and intellect in the debate.

      • But on radio, Nixon was thought to have had more substance and intellect in the debate.

        That's proven to be a myth. [tandfonline.com]
        And there's an easy way to test it. Put the debate on and listen to it. [jfklibrary.org]
        Nixon sounds unprepared, uncertain, makes awkward pauses as if awaiting some confirmation from someone - which never comes as there is no studio audience, he fumbles with words, makes comments which are shot down by Kennedy...

        Kennedy DOES look better, there is no denying that, and Nixon's attempts at charm are closer to creepy than charming.
        But Nixon lost that debate both on the radio and on TV.

  • Dogmatists simply can't conceive that anyone else would behave or perceive differently than them. They are the mold from which everyone else must de rigeur be cast.

  • is that a large portion of Swedes lie about when they will change their minds.

  • that's surprising? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:52PM (#43429407)

    Most people don't know any of the science behind nuclear power, global warming, environmental protection, or race relations. Whether it's Democrats or Republicans, their beliefs about these subjects are based purely on what their favorite political personality tells them. So if you try to justify their position, they start spouting nonsense, and they probably don't remember what their position is if they are on their own to make a choice.

    As for the presidential candidates, in practice, they were interchangeable: both Obama and Romney were bent on violating the Constitution, civil liberties, and handing large amounts of money to their buddies and constituents, at the cost of everybody else. We happened to get Obama, and he has delivered on that program "beautifully". Obama's pride and overconfidence makes it even easier for special interest groups to pull his strings than Bush's simplicity.

  • Not what he said (Score:2, Informative)

    by Metrol (147060)

    "When U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney said last year that he was not even going to try to reach 47% of the US electorate"

    Got to wonder about an article that starts out this way. Grant you, I haven't gone back and reviewed the video in a while. Still, I'm pretty sure what he said was that about 47% of the population wouldn't be interested in him and a platform for a smaller government. I certainly don't recall anything even approaching the notion that he was going to ignore half the population. T

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:12AM (#43430029) Journal

      "When U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney said last year that he was not even going to try to reach 47% of the US electorate"

      Got to wonder about an article that starts out this way. Grant you, I haven't gone back and reviewed the video in a while. Still, I'm pretty sure what he said was that about 47% of the population wouldn't be interested in him and a platform for a smaller government.

      Well, after five seconds of googling I found [motherjones.com]:

      Romney: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like. I mean, when you ask those peoplewe do all these polls—I find it amazing—we poll all these people, see where you stand on the polls, but 45 percent of the people will go with a Republican, and 48 or 4

      I did enjoy, however, how you removed the inflammatory notion that "there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it" and replaced it with "a platform for a smaller government."

      It's amusing to call out one summary as being inaccurate and replace it with your own inaccuracies. I found the line you quoted from the summary more accurate about Romney's "giving up on them" attitude than your "they refuse a small government."

      Every campaign focuses their attention on those votes they're most likely to get. You didn't see Obama spending a lot of his campaign in states that weren't likely to go his way no matter what. Certainly he had his strategy sessions that had they been publicly released wouldn't be especially flattering either.

      So quote them. Go ahead, you don't think he's mindful of what he says to a large group of people? Your accusations that Obama was just as bad as Romney are backed up with absolutely zero citations.

      • "there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it" and replaced it with "a platform for a smaller government."

        Absolutely it's inflammatory. But there is an element of truth to what he said. When you have a nation that vote themselves more stuff at the expense of the productive members of society,

        • by ljw1004 (764174)

          Then there are the *good* people, the ones who believe you should vote in the best interests of those less fortunate than themselves. I'll always vote in the interests of the poor and I support the 99% movement, even though I'm in the 1% myself and will lose out. Romney has to persuade people like me that it's fine to be selfish but he failed.

  • The biggest problem with politics is that the very vocal participants are always the extremists, one way or another. Most people really don't care all that much about either party aside from one or two specific positions, like gun control or taxes or abortion rights. It's kind of like how you can't find many libertarians that are actually libertarian across a wide range of topics outside of "small government." Or like how someone will be a hardcore republican simply because they want to own firearms.

    Our

  • by orasio (188021) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:09PM (#43429487) Homepage
    In the US there are no left wing parties. As an example, "socialist" can be used as an insult there. From the outside, all US politicians are right wing (meaning that they are not for wealth redistribution or any other left wing concept). It's not that hard to change from strongly conservative to not that strongly conservative.
    • by femtobyte (710429) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:37PM (#43429613)

      It's not true that our politicians aren't for wealth redistribution. In fact, they're pretty evenly divided between wanting slow upward wealth redistribution, or very rapid upward wealth redistribution.

    • That can't be said enough. wish i had points.
      I LIVE in the USA and it's so much worse having to live with their ignorance as it tears up the once great nation (or that is what I was taught, maybe it never was all that great.)

  • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:10PM (#43429489) Journal

    I treat political parties like phone providers. If they don't connect with me I switch.

    I'll register as whatever the dominant party is in a district so that my vote in the primary counts, because sometimes your vote is worthless in the general election. This happens most frequently with the Democratic Party in cities.

    That doesn't mean "I'm a Democrat". It means that I'm using the provider that works best, and strategically using the system just like they do.

    Party loyalty? For most people it makes no sense. With few exceptions, you are an idiot to claim loyalty to a party, or to think of it as virtuous. The exceptions? Influence peddlers and politicians. Lawyers also tend to be creatures of party, even if they don't get very far in the hierarchy. It's ugly though. I know a very intelligent Republican who fits into the lawyer category, and hearing him argue that Palin was a good choice was just hilarious. Now the party to which he is so loyal is disagreeing with him over immigration so they can get teh votez. Loyalty? Principal? Parties have no such thing. Loyalty to a party? Maybe it's silly for everybody, not just the common man.

  • So I'm guessing the other 81% said "Hey! You changed my answers!" No, I did not RTFA. The 19% are too stupid to realize answers they JUST GAVE have been switched. If RTFA shows otherwise, then the summary is pretty s#!++y.
  • Whether you vote Demican or Republicrat, you're basically voting the same thing. Increased government control and eroding personal liberties. You can argue on the what and how, but the why is already pretty much a fait accompli.

    People flip between parties because the parties offer similar platforms. It's just a question of which gives the most bread and offers the most entertaining circuses.

  • The article gets it wrong. It says:

    ...most voters are locked in to their ideological party loyalty. But Lars Hall, a cognitive scientist at Lund University in Sweden, knew better.

    1) Voters are not locked into their *ideological* party. They are locked into their *political* party. This is a very important difference!

    Most people follow the color, the banner, or the party name -- not the philosophy. Philosophy is something people think about, study, and decide upon using rational thought. But political parties (at least in the US) rarely actually follow a philoshy. The usually use the looser term "platform" which consists of a series of malle

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