Voters don’t care what you think or say?

Here’s a snippet to conjure with. It comes through the ESRC’s Society Today website. Dr James Tilley describes a test conducted during the last European election in which respondents were tested for their responses to certain objective data: “Contrary to what one might expect, we found that only a minority of respondents changed their views on parties’ policies on European integration,” Dr Tilley explains. “And those most likely to change tended to be the least sophisticated.” Hmmm… Before we get carried away, those were the elections with the 46% turnout in NI… And 16.7% in Slovakia! I would guess there were just not many people listening…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Dk

    I remember reading about an experiment where people were asked to count the number of passes in a film made between of two people throwing a ball to one another. The viewers of the film got the answer right, but were then asked another question: “Did you see the gorilla?”

    During the film, a bloke in a gorilla costume appeared on secreen, walked in front of the people passing the ball, stopped, beat his chest a few times and then wandered off screen. Less than half of the people watching the film said that they saw him. Many claimed that the film had been tampered with or switched in some way after being shown it again.

    So the same theory of “selective blindness” works in politics too. we are too absorbed with watching what we are told or want to watch that we miss the gorilla.

    The “least sophisticated” are probably not that interested in the question in the first place, and so place less attention on it and therefore they see the gorilla, and change their minds. This makes the great 30-40% or more that don’t vote so important. They see the gorilla, and that is why they don’t vote.

    I also remember reading the autobiography of David Sutch, aka Screaming Lord Sutch of the Monster Raving Loony Party. He was always at pains to include the “no vote” in results. Extrapolated to Northern Ireland elections, we find that the results of the 2005 election are:

    Not Voting: 38%
    DUP: 21%
    Sinn Fein: 10%
    UUP: 11%
    SDLP: 11%
    Alliance: 2%

    So the vote for nationalist parties is 21%, and the vote for unionist parties is 32%.

    Both are beaten by the non-vote. The gorilla has lost.

  • DK

    Sorry, Sinn Fein were 15% & therefore nationalist parties were 26%. Typo – a bloke wearing a leprachuan costume passed my field of vision…