Sunday, September 14, 2008

5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters

4. Voters today are smarter than they used to be.

Actually, by most measures, voters today possess the same level of political knowledge as their parents and grandparents, and in some categories, they score lower. In the 1950s, only 10 percent of voters were incapable of citing any ways in which the two major parties differed, according to Thomas E. Patterson of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, who leads the Pew-backed Vanishing Voter Project. By the 1970s, that number had jumped to nearly 30 percent.

Here's what makes these numbers deplorable -- and, in fact, almost incomprehensible: Education levels are far higher today than they were half a century ago, when social scientists first began surveying voter knowledge about politics. (In 1940, six in ten Americans hadn't made it past the eighth grade.) The moral of this story: Schooling alone doesn't translate into better educated voters.

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