Problems of Uninformed Voters

Did you know many Democrats are opposed to standardized testing? Did you know many Republicans don’t believe there should be a set minimum wage? Many people don’t even know what the parties and candidates they are voting for represent. In the 2012 Presidential Election, Bipartisan Policy Center estimated there were about 126 million voters. Voting is essential in a democracy. Voting is the definition of a democracy. A democracy is a form of government in which people elect leaders by voting according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Throughout American history, thousands of people have fought for this right to vote. We advocated for men of all ethnicities to be able vote, and later we extended this right to women. However, a democracy functions best when informed citizens vote. Unfortunately, much of today’s population is not quite as informed as they should be. Many adults lack the crucial knowledge to make informed political decisions, like voting. First, we will examine how uninformed voting is a problem today. Second, we will discuss why uninformed voting occurs as often as it does. Finally, I will offer a solution for this perpetual problem.

Ignorant voters hurt democracy. You cannot run an effective democracy when the citizenship is weak. Voting is a crucial aspect of citizenship. It is how you display commitment and respect to your country and form of government. People do not take this responsibility seriously enough. When people vote impulsively or don’t put enough thought into their decisions, our democracy is not a true reflection of what the people want. A survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2012 to determine how knowledgeable the public was on the presidential campaign. Their findings were alarming. Only 60% of registered voters were aware that Romney opposes gay marriage. Only 66% of registered voters knew of Obama’s policy that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as juveniles to remain here and apply for work permits. Additionally, in a 2006 Zogby Poll, 73% of Americans were able to identify the names of The Three Stooges, while a whopping 42% could identify the three branches of government. 77% of Americans could name off two of Snow White’s Seven Dwarves. On the other hand, 24% of people could name off two of the nine Supreme Court Justices. As sad as it is, the average voter probably spends more time becoming informed on which car to buy than who they want to run their country. Who you elect into office has such a huge impact on the future of all Americans, not just yourself. So don’t you agree we should be somewhat familiar with the candidates stances on current issues? And that we should understand the basic setup of our government and the officials that run it before we vote? Not knowing crucial details of a candidate’s intentions, you may be disappointed when they do something you weren’t expecting. And unfortunately, once your ballot is casted, you cannot take it back. For this reason, voters need to stay relatively updated on campaign issues, current events, and general workings of the U.S. political system.

Obviously, you can see how prevalent uninformed voting is in today’s society. But why is this happening so frequently? Well, think about like this. From the moment children are born, their lives are being shaped by those around them, in other words children learn what they live. And they spend the first eighteen years of their lives, some of the most influential ones, living with their immediate family. Inevitably, families who vocalize their political beliefs will naturally sway their child in that direction. Furthermore, their circle of friends will play a factor too. In my American Civics class last year, we put on a mock trial. Before the trial, we had to determine our political affiliation. As a class, we had to get up and divide ourselves into groups based on which party we wanted to represent in the trial. I observed that everyone just so happened to fall into the same group as their friends did. There were cliques within the parties. No one had the confidence to split from their friends and represent their individual ideas. Family and friends can inhibit people from forming their own opinions. This results in a biased political perspective which may not reflect your core values. In other cases, it’s simply that people don’t care enough to become informed. They just vote to because they feel obligated to, but don’t give the decision much thought. People have disengaged themselves from politics because they don’t think it directly affects them. However, this could not be further from the truth. U.S. government and politics regulates so many aspects of our lives. It funds our public school, provides grants and loans for higher education, builds and maintains the roads we drive on everyday, provides the water that runs through our homes, and determines how much we pay in taxes. Most citizen have at least one political interest or concern. By voting, you can have a say in it. So take advantage of this opportunity and take it seriously.

Now, how do we go about addressing this problem? Ideally, people would take matters into their own hands. You would perform research on the issues and stances of the politicians running for office. Once you establish where you stand, then you can compare the politician’s views with your own and the one you are most compatible with is the politician you should vote to elect. It would also benefit you greatly to follow significant world-wide events. You should also be able to accurately depict the functioning of our government and which branches are responsible for which tasks. Reading the politics section in your paper, flipping to the news channel every once in a while, tuning into electoral debates during campaigns, and subscribing to magazines like Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report will keep you in the know. For someone who is apathetic in politics, the motivation to become informed has to come from within you. And to be brutally honest, many people would hear this and it would go in one ear and come right back out the next. As a last resort, we could require that all registered voters pass a comprehension test to prove their knowledge of politics. If we threaten to take the option to vote away from the uninformed, it could be just the spark we need to get them thinking seriously about politics. Amendments 15, 19, 24, and 26 to the Constitution only say that you cannot deny someone a vote on account of race, sex, failure to pay tax, or age after the individual reaches 18. Immigrants have to pass a test before being allowed to vote. Why do we assume that that all American-born citizens already know everything they need to know before voting?

We have now analyzed the consequences of being an uninformed voter, the root cause of uninformed voting, and potential solutions to the problem. Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” It doesn’t have to be that way. We can all become more informed.