Monday, July 18, 2011

MIT Study: Appearance is Everything

Who would have ever thought that voters may be swayed more by a candidate’s looks and appearance than by his or her political platform? An MIT study seems to suggest that it just may be true.

The study found that “low-information voters are most likely to vote for a candidate based on looks alone. “What,” you may ask, “is a low-information voter?” I’m glad you asked. Low-information voters consist of those who watch a lot of TV and are not up-to-date on policy issues.

People commonly judge other people according to first impressions, but once they learn more about them, they tend to update their impressions and forget their initial judgments. The problem with voting in elections is that many voters never go to the second step of learning more about the candidates other than that initial impression.

According to people conducting the study, the number of TV-watching, low-engagement voters is far from insignificant. The number of voters in this category could even be enough to sway the outcome of elections.

You think? It doesn’t take a scientific study to know that TV-watching, low-engagement voters may actually be a majority of voters. Even worse, is the fact that most of the people in this category are low-information voters. They hear headlines (on TV) and they make up their minds according to little catch phrases they hear. Beyond that, many of the voters who put candidates in office know next to nothing about what they are voting on.

Can this trend be reversed? It can, but it takes grass-roots efforts. Each of us, who actually pay attention, should discuss actual issues with these low-information voters. If we all do our part, things just may turn around.

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