15 May 2016

2016: The Year of Ignorance

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TrumpWhatMePresident

There’s been a certain amount of complaining about my insulting people by referring to them as “low-information-voters.” The problem is: I’m right. That’s exactly what they are, as Ilya Somin explains at some length.

A specter is haunting this year’s presidential election: political ignorance. Both Democrats and Republicans love to accuse the other party’s supporters of that sin. Sadly, both are often right.

The presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has raised exploitation of ignorance to new heights. Many of the main themes of his campaign prey on it. Trump’s campaign first took off when he claimed we are being inundated with Mexican immigrants, who increase the crime rate because many are “criminals” and “rapists.” In reality, net migration from Mexico has been close to zero for the last 10 years. Yet few Americans seem to know that. And while studies consistently find that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans, a 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 50% of Americans (and 71% of Republicans) believe immigration is making crime “worse.”

Trump’s claim that nations such as China, Mexico and Japan are “killing us on trade” because we have trade deficits with them also relies on ignorance. As economists across the political spectrum recognize, free trade benefits the economy, and a bilateral trade deficit between two nations is no more an indicator of economic failure than is my trade deficit with my local supermarket. Unfortunately, studies show that trade is one of the areas where there is the greatest gap between general public opinion and informed opinion.
Trump is far from the only candidate to exploit ignorance this year, merely the most successful. Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” who has mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge for the Democratic nomination, shares some of Trump’s demagoguery on trade.

Like Trump, Sanders has also put forward budget projections that most experts, even in his own party, regard as fantastical. Surveys consistently show that most Americans greatly underestimate the percentage of federal spending devoted to big entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, which are among the largest areas of federal spending. As a result, many voters accept Trump and Sanders’ claims that we can not only deal with our serious fiscal problems without reforming them, but also pile on enormous spending increases (Sanders) or tax cuts (Trump). A survey of Sanders supporters by Vox found that the vast majority are unwilling to pay more than a fraction of the tax increases that even Sanders’ own projections say would be required to fund the new health care and education programs he proposes. Most likely do not realize the true cost.

The problem of ill-informed voters is certainly not confined to Trump and Sanders, or to the 2016 election; more conventional politicians often manipulate ignorance, as well. It is also not limited to specific issues, instead extending to the basic structure of government.

Read the whole thing.

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5 Feedbacks on "2016: The Year of Ignorance"

JKB

Take heart. Charles Murray has the charts for you #NeverTrumpers. Voting for Hillary is entirely okay for anti-Trump Republicans because historically, except for Reagan and a bit with Clinton (under influence of the Gingrich congress), there has been no difference between Democrat and Republican presidents in the growth of government or growth of discretionary spending.
http://www.aei.org/publication/a-reality-check-about-republican-presidents/

Or maybe the populace have just wised up and for good or bad, Trump represents real change. But more importantly, with Democrat and Republican visceral hatred of him, we might just see a decline in the growth of government and discretionary spending.



vanderleun

We’re not really complaining. We just know that, in this case,you are (sadly) wrong.

Don’t feel bad. It happens to everyone. Even me.



SDD

We live in a world where half the population thinks JFK was killed by a conspiracy, 40% believes that President Bush intentionally lied about WMDs in Iraq and 20% believe that aliens walk among us every day. Is the notion that we we will repay $19 trillion in debt in 8 years any more preposterous?



GoneWithTheWind

The congressional committee that investigated the Kennedy shooting and the Warren commission report concluded it WAS a conspiracy AND that the Warren commission intentionally lied in the official report. There were at least four bullets shot and IF an bullets were shot from the book repository it is likely they missed (at least one of them hit the street and nothing else).



Steve Gregg

Watch the new TV sport of interviewing people on the street about current events and you will see that the great mass of citizens don’t know jack about even the basic stuff. Is it any wonder that some demagogue can hijack the populace with a platform of stupidity? I’m surprised that some UFO cult doesn’t field a candidate who promises that space aliens will solve all our problems.



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