Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Younger and Smarter

According to the Pew Center for the People and the Press, younger voters are bucking the trend when it comes to campaign knowledge. Usually age is a positive predictor of knowledge, which means the older you are, the better you tend to do on the various ways we measure the concept.

Not so much, this year. In fact, just the opposite.

Sixty percent of voters 18-29 correctly identify Obama as being pro-choice, while only 51 percent of voters ages 50-64 got it right. Only 41 percent of those 65 and older nailed the question.

Most everyone did better in identifying candidate positions on Iraq than they did on abortion.

So what's going on?

In part this is an Obama Effect. He energized young voters, enough so that they were a little more likely to pay attention and get the answer right. I'm frankly surprised that they pulled ahead of older respondents instead of merely pulling even. That's damn surprising given the usually significant age effect we see on knowledge. Maybe there's something different about abortion as an issue. Maybe something else is at work here.

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

In honor of the upcoming presidential debate, I'll write tomorrow or the next day on what we know from the research on debates and post-debate analysis. Do debate performances change minds? Do people learn from the debates? Do zingers matter, as in "you're no Jack Kennedy" in 1988 or President Ford's infamous freeing of Poland in 1976? And how about those talking heads who later tell us what we just saw, what effect do they have on public opinion?

More later.

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