Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gut Reactions and Bandwagon Voters

David Brooks likes to tell us what we think. FAIR:

Acknowledging that "nobody really knows how voters think," the expert pundit nevertheless offers his bold speculations on the matter. Brooks is less enlightening on psychology of voters than on the convoluted justifications commentators invent to explain why they fail to cover the election in a way that would be even remotely helpful to voters. Brooks claims that voters base choices not on policy differences, but rather on gut reactions: "After seeing a candidate for 100 milliseconds, voters make certain sorts of judgments based on expressiveness, facial structure, carriage and attitude."

The election is thus really about image--which just happens to be an aspect of campaigning that political journalists love to report on. Note that one of the puzzles that Brooks poses to show the idea that make "cold, rational decisions"--"Why have primary victories produced no momentum for the victors?"--suggests that it's irrational for voters not to be swayed by the bandwagon effect.

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