Semantron 23 Summer 2023


policy may have notable impacts on quality of life, or at the very least will offer a disparity between public voting intention and political outcomes and can lead voters to act against their own self-interest. Similar, or perhaps even more consequential, are the implications of these findings for the holding of policymakers and political elites to account for their actions. The politically interested have been frequently accredited 13 as the group who hold the most responsibility in keeping politicians accountable for their actions, given both the cited lack of political interest among the populus more widely, and their general greater financial influence 14 that can be used in campaigning for change. Therefore, a belief of incorrect knowledge amongst this group can help to alleviate individual politicians from the consequences of deviant public policy action, and further lead voting outcomes to misrepresent political preferences, which is a failure of the democratic process. (Harford, 2018) presents a different stance on the issues and successes of heuristics in informing and influencing the democratic process. He argues that, far from being an irrational disaster, the use of heuristics in voting can be one of the primary tools in informing voters of their most rational vote which best reflects their preferences. Given, as Dancey et al. make clear, the lack of political interest in the general population, he points to arguments from Bryan Caplan that the use of heuristics is entirely rational, given the lack of incentive to research rational voting choices for the individual. 15 With a virtually negligible payoff for voting, given no single vote will statistically (with a probability tending to 0) have any sway in an election result, it is completely rational that votes go unused or are placed on candidates who do not strictly reflect preferences, as for an individual with no political interest this is wasted energy and entirely costless. Further, he offers that the use of the representativeness heuristic allows the politically disinterested to formulate voting habits that roughly reflect their preferences from a general understanding of party policy. Moreover, given that no party will directly reflect an individual’s preferences, this rough method is far more effective than any long -winded process of research, provided a basic understanding of party policy. In turn, this better leads to a representative democracy, one in which voters act roughly on their preferences, to an end which could not aggregately be much improved by further preference learning, as limited options dictate that preference maximizing is approximate regardless. 16 The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Although there is much to be criticized in the ‘tribal’ politics which this taps into, this use of the representativeness heuristic is one of the key factors in expanding politics beyond a closed sphere o f ‘elites’ and onto a wider populus, who may not have the same available time and energy to pursue a political interest. Moreover, one of the key features of a representative democracy is that the voter base does not actually need to have any interest or knowledge in key issues in order to actually represent themselves. Instead, by electing a candidate or a party, who, through the confirmation bias, is likely to share the voter’s same core instincts and political beliefs, a voter can be relatively safe in the assumption that their political preferences will be 13 Dancey, L., & Sheagley, G. (2013). Heuristics Behaving Badly: Party Cues and Voter Knowledge . American Journal of Political Science, 57(2), 312 – 325. 14 Miler, K. C. (2009). The Limitations of Heuristics for Political Elites. Political Psychology , 30 (6), 863 – 894. 15 Harford, T. (2018). Referendums break democracies so best to avoid them . Financial Times. Referendums break democracies so best to avoid them | Financial Times ( 16 Petersen, M. B. (2015). Evolutionary Political Psychology: On the Origin and Structure of Heuristics and Biases in Politics . Political Psychology, 36 (S1), 45 – 78.


Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs