Do voters actually study policy before deciding who to vote for?
How much do we know?
How much real information are we given about anything?
Every day the media bombards us with news items. Every few minutes someone on Facebook posts something they want us to act on. How much of what we are shown is genuinely going to help us act beneficially? News items often imply we should make a judgement, may be an emotional judgement but it is still a decision to support any given act, or to be angry and oppose it. We are shown celebrities reacting to an event and we are thus pulled into the situation by choosing to support or oppose the celebrities indicated reactions. How much information do we need to make such decisions? Are we ever given enough information and can we trust the accuracy of the data we are given?
This question is relevant in the smallest detail of our lives, to the largest possible one. From why our life partner is suddenly so angry, to is there a God. Do we ever have the right amount of valid information, or do we always have to rely on our instinctive interpretation of what we do have? Mothers of babies too young to speak seem to have a connection that allows interpretation of a yell. Do we all use a similar intuitive connections, to make judgements without all the necessary evidence?
How much of what little information we are given, do we actually study and question? I would suggest that in most instances where we form opinions, we actually take a very superficial look at what is presented. It is only in something that is important to us personally, that we examine and question what we are told. This has implications for both politics and consumer advertising. If the majority of decisions are based on only superficial study, then being accurate and supplying detail, is a waste of time. Sound bites rule.
This may account for some voting patterns and the election of people who avoid clear policy commitments. It may also be why being photogenic is a political asset. Presenting an appealing presence and saying very little that is meaningful but still managing to say things people want to hear, is a good way of getting votes from those people who do not look deeper into any question. This is probably a very contentious thought, but it may also be a reason why the younger we are, the more we accept ideology over practical policy. As we get older we actually look more into the effect a proposal will have, rather than accept it at an ideological and emotional level.
As most of us, the vast majority of voters, are never going to be given the real inside truth about any political decision, may be for good reasons of national security or fiscal confidentiality, but it is still not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We need to be sure what information we do get, is not misleading. Not knowing, is one thing, being told lies is far worse. How do we ensure that what we know, is not directing us away from the truth? In an age where the manipulating of information and the high speed spreading of false news are common, we have to take great care. Seek out several different views on any and every subject. Recognise the political slant on any information. Try to find the vested interest behind the presentation of any report. Try to see what is being “sold.” The British government of Tony Blair employed quite a few experts at misleading information, they were given the rather “childlike” name of spin doctors. Which made them sound like innocent purveyors of fun, in fact they ensured very few knew actual truth about anything the government that employed them, was doing and most members of the public were misled about anything and everything; sometimes without any apparent reason. It became a standard operating method of the Blair and Brown governments, to do everything in a cloud of distortion, so that truth was never seen. This is a wrong way to govern democratically. Keeping state secrets for reason of security has to be accepted but preventing any and every part of the truth about every decision is unacceptable.