The power of political ignorance

On issues like same-sex marriage, a pathway to citizenship or taxing families that earn more than $200,000 a year, people with low levels of political knowledge are more likely to say that they don’t know what their own position on the issue is, or that they are unsure about it. Those with low levels of political knowledge are also less likely to have graduated from high school or have any kind of college experience compared with those with higher levels of information.

Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, it is tempting to think that something as important as control of the Senate lies in the hands of voters who carefully pick and choose which candidates to vote for in each race on the ballot, but this seems unlikely. It is more likely that split-ticket voters are buffeted by idiosyncratic factors, like incumbency status, recent campaign advertising, and the tone and share of news coverage candidates receive.

All of this makes the quality of the campaigns and the fund-raising it takes to wage them very important. If the early ads for the 2014 midterm elections are any indication, cross-party voters are in for several months of intense appeals, whether they are interested in them or not.