Thursday, May 1, 2008

Joe Klein: The "shrinking" democrats and low-information signals

In the most recent issue of 'Time Magazine', Joe Klein writes about the Democratic Primary battle and "low-information signaling". Though I'm not familiar with the term, the language of 'low-information signaling' encompasses what this blog is about. Though politics has serious implications on things like infrastructure, foreign policy and society the media and voters often base their political judgment on trivial matters.

Joe Klein on 'The Incredibly Shrinking Democrats'
Yes, yes, the bulk of the sludge was caricature, and some of it, especially the stuff circulating on the Internet, was scurrilous trash. But there is an immutable pedestrian reality to American politics: you have to get the social body language right if you want voters to consider the nobler reaches of your message. In his 1991 book, The Reasoning Voter, political scientist Samuel Popkin argued that most people make their choice on the basis of "low-information signaling" — that is, stupid things like whether you know how to roll a bowling ball or wear an American-flag pin. In the era of Republican dominance, the low-information signals were really low — how Michael Dukakis looked in a tanker's helmet, whether John Kerry's favorite sports were too precious (like wind-surfing), whether Al Gore's debate sighs over his opponent's simple obfuscations were patronizing. Bill Clinton was the lone Democratic master of low-information signaling — a love of McDonald's and other assorted big-gulp appetites gave him credibility that even trumped his evasion of military service.

The audacity of the Obama campaign was the belief that — the low-information politics could be tossed aside. That assumption hit a wall in Pennsylvania.

Joe Klein, April 24, 2008. Time Magazine

Samuel Popkin, Reasoning voter For more on "Low-information signals" find Samuel Popkin's book on Amazon "The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns".

Read more about Author Samuel Popkin

Here is the Product Description from
The Reasoning Voter is an insider's look at campaigns, candidates, media, and voters that convincingly argues that voters make informed logical choices. Samuel L. Popkin analyzes three primary campaigns—Carter in 1976; Bush and Reagan in 1980; and Hart, Mondale, and Jackson in 1984—to arrive at a new model of the way voters sort through commercials and sound bites to choose a candidate. Drawing on insights from economics and cognitive psychology, he convincingly demonstrates that, as trivial as campaigns often appear, they provide voters with a surprising amount of information on a candidate's views and skills. For all their shortcomings, campaigns do matter.

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