Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Political awareness vs income and education (Democracy 3)

Lets say I wanted to introduce the concept of spin, and media campaigning into a political strategy game (hypothetically).

I put to you the following conjectures:

  1. There is an extent to which everybody is influenced in making their political decisions by their perceptions of the candidate as produced by ‘spun’ media stunts and the extent to which they are exposed to political campaign literature and advertising.
  2. The extent to which that influence takes hold of an individual is higher if that individual is of low education than if they are of high education
  3. There is a correlation between income and education, with regards to the individual.

Now I am talking about the greater STATISTICAL model here. I am not saying that all rich people are well educated, that ll poor people are badly educated, or that all well-educated people are like spock and can see through the spin, whereas all poorly educated people are gullible fools who swallow party-propaganda without question. There are MANY MANY exceptions, of course. What I am asking you is this… is there a correlation (maybe a weak one, affecting maybe 10% of the vote) in these values?

This would seem to suggest that its not nonsense to correlate the level of socio-economic status of an individual with their political awareness…


So is it not fair to suggest therefore a link between an individuals income and their level of political awareness? And as income affects education, should overall education not be a factor?

To put things in more crude terms, here are some yes/no questions:

A) If we spent a lot more on education in any given country, would that increase the extent to which people made informed decisions on political policies rather than voted for trivial/superficial reasons?

B) Is it easier to get votes from poor people using political ads and spin than it is to get votes from rich people using the same methods?

Be VERY careful. Almost everyone thinks ads don’t affect them, and they are all wrong, but I suggest that if the ONLY information you have about the policies of (for example) Clinton or Trump is from political ads, then you are more swayed by such techniques, whereas if you read 3 different serious newspapers, watch different TV news stations and are well-educated on the topics of politics and economics, are you not better placed to overcome the effects of those ads with your own internal thoughts?

Basically if I add a correlation between the susceptibility of voters to electioneering and their income, and skew all of this by the countries state of education, is that a fair link to make? or is it elitist bollocks? :D  I need your opinions. Supporting studies and charts are vastly interesting too!



8 thoughts on Political awareness vs income and education (Democracy 3)

  1. I believe your suggestions are valid. If nothing else, information access is frequently gated by tech, which is in turn gated by income. More means turns into more exposure to alternate ideas, etc etc.

    It’s not a popular idea, but I think it’s an accurate one, from the statistical perspective.

  2. I don’t see why you would treat one form of media (news) differently from other forms of media (ads). News media historically and currently show a huge bias.

    Likewise, as Henry Rollins points out, “knowledge without milage is bullshit”. A higher level of education only works when it has an equally high level of real world experience.

    I don’t believe increased spending on education makes people more informed. I would however buy into the concept that the more people travel into other countries for work and for pleasure (something I don’t think democracy tracks) would make them more informed. Interestingly enough, this works well at many economic levels.

    As for question 2, I think it’s an economy. One buys votes from the poor in the currency of promises, paying to make those promises and one buys votes from the rich in the currency of promises, being paid to make them. One needs fundraisers and TV spots.

  3. I can only offer insight into South Africa’s politics.
    I should mention (so that biases have been disclosed) I am white, a young adult, and of middle-income who lives in an urban area.

    I believe that there is a definite correlation between income and susceptibility to electioneering (in South Africa at least).

    One of the most popular electioneering techniques used in rural and low-income urban areas (often townships) is the mass delivery of groceries. As the majority of people in these two areas are near to the poverty line (either below, or barely above the line) such measures are greatly appreciated. The political party that most makes use of this specific technique the most is the ANC, who have held on to a majority since Apartheid ended.

    The ANC’s biggest demographic of supporters is what our census calls “black Africans” (which of course doesn’t adequately convey the diversity of such a group but is none-the-less necessary for brevity). This group is historically of lower income than the “other” racial demographics – thanks to the lasting effects of Apartheid’s disenfranchisement, and South Africa’s inability to speedily ‘correct’ this. Government-created history syllabuses have been criticized for often being almost blatant in their support for the ANC during the Apartheid struggle while belittling other anti-Apartheid movements. Their are almost no private schools in most non-urban locations, and so “poorer” areas often do not have an alternative schooling venues to the basic public schools.

    If you’re interested in seeing this in a general sense, compare this;
    to this;

    I should note that this is changing (and is far from universal – I’ve been forced to be very general for brevity).
    Conversations with entrepreneurs who set up businesses in rural areas have ‘revealed’ that the dominance of the state broadcaster (The SABC has often been declared a mouthpiece of the ANC by opposition parties – leading to some court-cases to break this “monopoly,) has lessened to such an extent that there is now a multitude of radio and television broadcasters that do not necessarily spread pro-ANC news. With greater wealth, some of the historically pro-ANC rural areas have lessened in their support as they can now access information that is not always biased for ANC support.

    Despite my criticism of the ANC I do not hold them solely at fault for any problems presented here. Many of the opposition parties have also used such techniques before I used this example as I believe it does provide a good example of a (possible) correlation between income levels and susceptibility to electioneering.

  4. A few random thoughts:

    – Education contributes over (very) long term to your ability to form discourse, that is: consider other people’s arguments as well as build your own argumentation. Importantly, it contributes to your ability to form rationalizations.

    – The “political climate” in a given country contributes over short term to whether people have more emotional or rational approach to politics. Importantly, educated people are just as emotional as uneducated ones (we generally don’t teach “emotional health & safety” to kids, e.g. we don’t train theim in behavioral-cognitive techniques)

    – Educated people have “invested” more in their opinions. They’ve read stuff, discussed it, found people who think the same thing etc. Rational arguments work less on educated people, because they know more facts (or “facts”) of their own. Also, the more unstable the political climate, the more entrenched these people become. An angry educated person is going to create impressive argumentation in favour of a cause they won’t admit is doomed.

    – Uneducated people have a sort of “clean slate”. It’s easier to convince them. The climate affects what kind of things seem more convincing. In a calm climate, uneducated people are going to follow whatever seems to work, hence successful policies are going to make them change opinions the most. In an unstable climate, they’re going to be swayed by strong messages (whether from spin doctors or whistleblowers), but the effect isn’t necessarily going to last.

    A given politician or party has strong influence over their supporters, e.g. they can relatively easily make them more or less emotional. They have a lesser influence on the general climate. A lone revolutionary is only going to drive a small group of people crazy while everybody else is only going to become slightly more worried. But if every politician in the country adopts an emotional stance, the society is going to destabilize very quickly.

  5. In general i’d say that the relationship is there, all other things being equal, but there are a few things which might override it in more specific circumstances:-

    – The more ‘stable’ a country the more an individual might be tempted to be swayed by something trivial in deciding how they vote. Put another way, the more important a voter think there vote is, the more thought they will put into it.

    – Technology, more technology will obviously create more sources of information, meaning more counters to spin, but also creates a lot of ‘noise’, clever spin can cut through the noise to grab voters attention.

    – For a lot of voters i’d suggest spin is a lot more likely to stick if it confirms what they already think. So to be slightly reductive means your spin is most effective for those voters who liked you more than the other person. So whats it’s actual effect if it doesn’t actually change a persons mind? Probably making a person who agrees with you more likely to vote. Lots of people have already decided they’d prefer Hilary over Trump, Hilary will probably just need to make sure enough of those people turn out to vote by spinning just how terrible Trump winning would be.

  6. It’s possible. If you know economics you’re more likely to understand why lowering corporate taxes is good for the middle class and that even if a politician says they’ll give free college you’ll still have to pay for it one way or another.

    As for political ads & media, every election the democrats arbitrarily say the republicans are racist and walk away with 90% of the black vote despite republicans being the party who freed the slaves and had a major role in passing the civil rights act. The ads & spin really sells it. If you ask them they’ll say the Republican & Democrat parties swapped stances, although I’ve never had anyone point to when that happened or what issues it was over so I’m inclined to believe it’s propaganda.

    You can see the media now also saying Trump does bad with women in an attempt to cultivate a self-fulfilling prophesy but he’s immune to their little games that have worked for years.

    But um, you were wanting to know how education affects that. For context I have a bachelor’s degree.

    At first I didn’t pay much attention so I bought into the media narrative that Trump wasn’t a serious candidate & it was a publicity stunt. Then I stumbled upon one of the Can’t Stump The Trump videos in my twitter feed and watched it. Then I thought, “wow, this guy will call them liars to their face & say what he thinks even if it’s not PC. I like this guy.”

    Instead of just being a fanboy I got serious and read all the policies on his site, bought his book Crippled America, went to one of his rallies, and have watched more than a dozen more rallies on YouTube. Not to mention the entire Can’t Stump The Trump series. (Ides of Marco is my fav)

    Now, I just shake my head at the media when they call him racist or sexist, because I’ve paid close attention & know they’re just taking things out of context & spinning them. In reality he’ll do more for black people, women, & hispanics than anyone else through his policies. Sure he’s not that great if you’re here illegally, or if you’re a country with a huge trade deficit, but I’m a nationalist so I don’t care.

    You’re British so I’m not trying to get you to vote Trump, I promise, lol. You and others may disagree with my ideas about him but that’s ok, it’s how I got to those ideas that I think might matter to what you’re working on.

    1. RE: Comrade Turner: Lowering corporate taxes is good for corporations and people who invest heavily in them. That’s usually not the middle class. The reason you want low(-ish) corporate taxes is because you want corporate taxes to be lower than upper bracket income taxes, so that people are incentivized to invest in businesses rather than simply save money when they have a lot of it, as wealthy people not investing and banks not loaning money to have it circulating around the economy is one of the key things that can trigger a recession. As long as there’s still a reasonable difference between top bracket taxes and corporate taxes after they’re raised, it actually benefits the middle class (and the working class, and people in poverty) to raise corporate taxes because either:
      * The government pays down its debt, making more money available for social spending in the long term and potentially increasing their credit rating, OR
      * The government spends more, stimulating the economy, allowing for more private sector jobs and providing more services to the public, OR
      * The government pays a larger surplus into their sovereign wealth fund/loans money to other countries during a boom time, making more money available for stimulus spending when the economy enters a downturn in the future.

      That said, I do respect that you checked up on your views somewhat, just remember that you should probably also run through the logic of people who disagree with them too, (ie. do critical research where you consider the arguments of both sides and see which ones are better supported by fact) and see whose opinions seem credible when doing research, as “facts” like the Republicans being the party that freed the slaves can be very misleading, as Yegg pointed out via link that during the civil rights movement the Republicans and Democrats ended up switching position on race and eventually several other things, (like states rights, for instance) so it’s a point that while technically true actually makes no sense, because someone whose opinions fit within the Republican norm today would probably have been a Democrat prior to the Civil Rights Act.

  7. “As for political ads & media, every election the democrats arbitrarily say the republicans are racist and walk away with 90% of the black vote despite republicans being the party who freed the slaves and had a major role in passing the civil rights act. The ads & spin really sells it. If you ask them they’ll say the Republican & Democrat parties swapped stances, although I’ve never had anyone point to when that happened or what issues it was over so I’m inclined to believe it’s propaganda.”,_1948#States.27_Rights_Democratic_Party_nomination

    You’ll note that the deep south states went from being the most reliably Democratic area in the country to the only place where the Republican candidate in 1964 won outside of his home state of AZ during this period. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.

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