the profseitz blog

getting students to engage the news…

Would We Really Be Better Off?

Would We Really Be Better Off?

A recent Gallup Poll finds that a significant number of Americans believe the nation would be “Better Off” if elected officials would just decide to listen to voters…

Gallup Poll

There are two assumptions underlying this finding that need to be addressed: 1. Representative don’t listen to the electorate, and 2. The “wisdom” of the electorate would create quality gains in the public decisions that are made. The first first assumption is clearly wrong, while the second assumption is questionable at best.

Where does the perception that elected officials come from? I think part of it stems from our inability to process large numbers. You live in a congressional district that has between 700K and 750K voters (that’s 750,000), which even if only half are paying attention and voting still means we are talking about around 350,000 active citizens. How can anyone discern accurately what that many people want? Do you know the old saw (proverb, maxim) about opinions and rear ends? I would argue that it is practically impossible to satisfy everyone, would you agree?

Political scientists also have a body of evidence that suggest the average American voter doesn’t know that much about the basic political institutions of our country or the political process. As I recently mentioned in class, just over half the country recall that the freedom of speech is a right found in the First Amendment, and only 25% of Americans can name all 5 rights found there. That concerns me a bit, how about you? If we are going to allow each other to influence the protection of our rights, shouldn’t we actually know what they are? Just sayin’…

So, maybe its about district size rather than the accuracy of representation. Would we feel more connected to our representatives if they each represented fewer of us? Maybe Georgia should have 28 House districts rather than 14. Then each district would only be around 300,000 or so, and the number of active voters would be around 150,000. Would that make a difference?



This entry was posted on September 23, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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