Features, Politics, Social Science, Spotlight

Stop Calling People “Low Information Voters”

A pernicious term used for those who voted for Trump and Brexit is the “low information voter”. Most likely uneducated, the low information voter doesn’t know much about “the issues”. He votes according to his gut feeling. He sabotages delicate democratic systems with the blunt exercise of his democratic rights.

Bob Geldof calls Brexit voters the “army of stupid”. US philosopher Jason Brennan describes Trump voters as “ignorant, irrational, misinformed, nationalists.”

In the Washington Post, the low information voter is defined as one who is more likely to respond to emotional appeals about issues such as the economy, immigration, Muslims, race relations and sexism. The Post goes onto explain:

Low information voters are those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues.

In other words, low information people react quickly, trust their intuitions and shirk deliberative thought. High information people take the time to think things through.

Depending on how you spin it, however, low information people might also be less prone to rationalization and high information people might be more vulnerable to ad hoc hypothesizing. Being high in intelligence or a need for cognition does not automatically indicate that one is high in rationality. Nor does it tell us much about a person’s practical wisdom.

Other descriptions of Trump voters have been less polite. In Haaertz Chemi Salev writes:

But there is one overarching factor that everyone knows contributed most of all to the Trump sensation. There is one sine qua non without which none of this would have been possible. There is one standalone reason that, like a big dodo in the room, no one dares mention, ironically, because of political correctness. You know what I’m talking about: Stupidity. Dumbness. Idiocy. Whatever you want to call it: Dufusness Supreme.

These words — for anyone who voted for Clinton or Remain — are like a caramel sundae for the brain. They reassure people that their prejudices are not only correct, they are smart. And that those who don’t share their interests, their voting preferences, or their values, are not just different in the way that apples and oranges are different, they are inferior. 


In the world according to the misanthrope, the masses need to be saved from themselves. This role is fulfilled by the ‘superior voters’ or those who are high in information. The U.S. philosopher Jason Brennan considers himself to be one of these individuals. He writes:

And while I no doubt suffer from some degree of confirmation bias and self-serving bias, perhaps I justifiably believe that I — a chaired professor of strategy, economics, ethics, and public policy at an elite research university, with a Ph.D. from the top-ranked political philosophy program in the English-speaking world, and with a strong record of peer-reviewed publications in top journals and academic presses — have superior political judgment on a great many political matters to many of my fellow citizens, including to many large groups of them.

In his book Against Democracy, Brennan advocates a model of government that would prevent the armies of stupid from voting. He borrows the term epistocracy, where those who know about political matters have increased political purchase, and those who don’t are left watching from the sidelines.

He doesn’t spell out exactly how epistocracy would work, but he does suggest some measures such as additional votes for university graduates, or the requirement of passing a civics exam.

In Brennan’s epistocratic paradise, a twenty-three year old who has recently graduated with a degree in political science and who has passed a civics exam would be more entitled to vote than the Army veteran returning from service in Afghanistan. People with PhDs who call themselves “social scientists” and who use taxpayer funds to write papers on pilates being the embodiment of whiteness and the importance of understanding icebergs from a feminist perspective would have more authority to vote than the common taxpayers who pay their wage.

The great twentieth century historian, Arnold Toynbee, theorized long ago that civilisations start to decline when their elite classes become parasitic. I can’t think of anything more parasitic than pseudo-intellectuals using other people’s money to write about feminist glaciology and the “whiteness” of pumpkin spiced lattes — and then being awarded more votes than returning military servicemen and women.


As Sumantra Maitra has written, it really should not be that difficult to understand why the “low information” bloc in the UK or the U.S. have voted for Trump or Brexit:

[T]his revolutionary anti-elitism one can see, is not against the rich or upper classes per se, it is against the liberal elites, who just “know better” about immigration, about intervention and about social values. What we have seen is a “burn it all down” revenge vote, against sententious, forced internationalism, aided with near incessant smug lecturing from the cocooned pink haired urban bubbles. Whether it’s good or bad, is for time to decide. But it’s a fact and it might as well be acknowledged.

On major issues, such as immigration, the Overton Window has been so narrow, for so long, that many people feel that those who speak about these topics are not being straightforward or honest.

Voters can sense that public discourse is driven by a false economy of virtue-signalling. Many see politicians and journalists as a class of people who would prefer to rehearse their dinner party talking points and show-off how caring and open-minded they are, than deal with tough issues in a frank and open manner.

Consider the example which occurred in Australian parliament just last week. When Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told politicians in Question Time that 22 out of the last 33 people charged with terrorist-related offences in Australia were from a second and third generational Lebanese-Muslim background, Senator McKim from the Greens Party called him a “racist”. Later, on Sky News, Senator McKim said: “Undoubtedly the advice [Dutton’s] got is accurate but just because something is fact doesn’t mean that it’s reasonable or productive to talk about it.”

From the cover-ups of sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany and the cover-ups of sexual assaults in Rothertham UK, to the partial release of 911 transcript of the Orlando Nightclub shooting in the US, to an Australian senator saying that is not reasonable or productive for an Immigration Minister to talk about facts — the public feels that on this topic, the powers-that-be are spineless at best, deceitful at worst.

And when policy is not up for debate and when conversation is taken off the table, the natural consequence will be growing suspicion and disillusionment in the populace. This is a bad outcome for liberal democracies.

While it is absolutely true that there is a robust body of literature which shows that immigration is beneficial for economic growth, there is another body of research which shows that increased diversity undermines social cohesion and social trust. “Low information” people may intuitively sense this. But they know which body of research their politicians will refer to on television talk shows and in parliament. And it’s not the research on social trust.

This is one reason why charges of wholesale ignorance are so obtuse. “High information” people ignore evidence if it conflicts with their preferred narrative all the time. And while it may be naïve for voters to believe the promises of Trump and the Brexit campaigners — it has also been profoundly naïve for the cosmopolitan classes to believe that years of forced internationalism and forced political correctness were never going to end with a large scale backlash.

Of course there are many people in the world who may not have the intellectual tool-kit to think through policy options carefully. However, “high information” people are not immune to irrationality. They are just as likely to be ideologues who are resistant to updating their beliefs when faced with new evidence. This includes social scientists.

In fact, high information people are likely to be much better at coming up with rationalisations as to why their preferred ideology is not only best, but in the national interest. And high information rationalisers are probably more likely to put forward theories about how everyone who disagrees with them is stupid, and is not deserving of the right to vote.


Claire Lehmann is the editor of Quillette. Follow her on Twitter @clairlemon.


  1. Excellent article, Claire. I would invite the highly credentialed Prof. Jason Brennan to take a walk through the Chicago housing projects explaining to the residents that his “superior political judgment” has led him to the inescapable conclusion that the votes of suburban whites with college degrees ought to be worth more points in an election than those of “low-information”, uncredentialed blacks in the projects. If they aren’t convinced, perhaps he can prove it to them by administering one of his “civics exams” and showing them how they rank. Surely that should be enough to convince them of his “superior political judgment”, and they’ll accord him the level of respect to which his sterling institutional credentials entitle him.

    • Uri Harris says

      The reality is, of course, that most people calling for limits on democracy in the wake of Brexit and Trump would find your suggestion distasteful. In their view, urban minorities are victims and rural whites oppressors, and this forms the basis of their policy suggestions. They want a way to limit the vote of the latter group without doing so for the former group. Most of what they say is an attempt to rationalise this through scientific-sounding ideas.

      • Let’s keep it clear that this is Brennan’s suggestion, not mine. Mine is just that if he wants to sell HIS idea of granting more points to voters with more educational credentials, he should start by trying to sell his idea to reliable supporters of leftist political theories, such as residents of the projects, and see how it works out for him

      • Gerard says

        You would have to have the most historical amnesia and an absense of any notion of human nature to miss the part where the latter group don’t rise up and kill you before or after you attempt this. Unreal.

  2. Steve Thomas says

    Well *I’m* a misanthrope, and I don’t care diddly-squat about the masses. Bunch of bozos. Actually this reminds me of Jefferson reputably having faith in “common” folk to solve their own problems while his adversary Alexander Hamilton – whom I’m pretty sure was the one who pushed the idea of an aristocratic-ish Senate – supposedly once slammed his fist on the table at a dinner party saying “Your people, sir,—your people is a great beast!” Of course, Jefferson is famous for being big on science and education, but it’s interesting and kind of inspirational that he placed what seems to have been total trust in the basic nature of humanity too. Even when it came to misanthropes and other scum of the earth types.

    • Keep in mind that Jefferson’s “common folk” were white men of property: farmers and artisans.

    • John Aronsson says

      Jefferson also had this to say about the sophistication of low information voters and their relationship to government by their “betters:”

      “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

      God be praised that low information voters have such a high boiling point. But when it is reached, the Grandees had best look for cover.

  3. Whyaxye says

    An excellent essay – thank you very much. It certainly seems to be the case that

    ‘“High information” people ignore evidence if it conflicts with their preferred narrative all the time.’

    They certainly do have lots of evidence, and a strong compulsion to display and disseminate it at every opportunity. But they are rather like scientists who collect and publish all the data they can find that confirms their hypothesis, but can’t even countenance that it might be factually refuted. They are just more than averagely willing to talk up their own confirmation biases.

    Two minor unrelated points, if I may.

    1) Jason Brennan. He tells us at length and with much waggling of credentials that he has “superior political judgement” to most of his countrymen. But here he is a couple of months ago, telling us that Trump will probably lose.


    So much for his scientific credentials. On the most starkly important issue, with the best tools of his trade to hand, he gets it wrong. If he were any other type of “scientist”, he would be sacked for that.

    2) The sexual assaults in Rotherham, UK. I’m sure many readers already know, but this was not an isolated case. Many towns in the UK have been the setting for near identical crimes where organised gangs of Asian men – almost exclusively of Pakistani heritage – have groomed, abused, and raped white girls, often under age.

    Thanks again. Heartening stuff!

    • That’s what I wondered when I read this–If he, and the rest of the ‘elites,’ are so very much smarter than the rest of us, why didn’t they see these election results coming?

  4. Uri Harris says

    Good article. I find it amazing that these journalists don’t see the irony in dismissing voters as uninformed and lacking of a ‘need for cognition’, while *they themselves* seem to have no understanding nor interest in why so many people voted for Brexit and Trump, despite there being an abundance of information out there for those willing to seek it out. Maybe we should start calling these people ‘low information journalists’.

  5. Santoculto says

    There are cognitive, factually correct, and factually incorrect personal biases. Conservatives are divided into three groups, the types that maintain the social base, the maintainers of the top and the types of defenders, the sentinels, just as it happens inside us by means of the red blood cells, leucocytes …

    Conservatives are predominantly correct about part of their cognitive biases, but therein lies the problem, for it is quite possible you are right about certain parts and wrong on other parts of the same object and of course it’s not enough….

    The sentinel type, just as with our immune system, is good for detecting “outside” dangers, and bad for solving the problem, because your mind tends not to be subtle enough to avoid generalizations and separate bad cells from good cells, that are close to bad cells.

    In terms of concrete and natural or naturalistic knowledge, conservatives are predominantly better than leftist liberals. And this is crucial because it is this knowledge that is the basis for most abstractions, so that without it, you will be creating a dissociation between the concrete real world and the abstract world, most often represented through culture, Religion or ideology.

    So we all have factually correct cognitive/personal biases, at surface. The liberal leftist who tries to suppress facts that can cause disruptions in his social interactions is not entirely wrong in doing so.

    The wise is the one who can discover and self-actualize what conservatives, ”middle”, leftist liberals, and so many others are doing right, OR who only does it for himself and slowly realizes his good / correct actions being done by others.

  6. Santoculto says

    We need stop to use ”rationalizations” or ”rationalizers” words without to know that RATIO = balance is not the same than ”try to justify factoid-beliefs”. Most of this ”high information rationalizers” simply don’t balance their point of views, so i think they are not ”rationalizers” because only the ”more rationals” who will be rationalizers…

    Instead weight their point of views ”they” are all the time pushing hard their ”personal’ beliefs.

  7. What Claire is suggesting with this article is far more than a mere review of political and university elites negative impacts on our lives over the last 20+ years, although she does it well.

    What she is pointing to is a movement that will reinforce democracy as it was intended by those well intentioned, well educated men who ensured the vote went to all men and also all women (later), regardless of their level of education. This was done on the understanding that all men and women should be treated equally and have a say in how they are governed. As they are the majority and political decisions affect them most.

    Brexit and Trump must be a huge disappointment to those ‘elite’ people who saw the world falling into their lap full of ideas, complete with fines, spurious law cases and snide campaigns to ensure any dissenter is out of their job.

  8. Barry says

    Great piece.

    I have really enjoyed baiting such elites over the past few weeks.

    Although, to be fair, while I agree with one man, one vote, I do think that man should be me. Mr Brennan and his highly educated friends will just have to accept the result.

  9. Leigh Lemon says

    >“High information” people ignore evidence if it conflicts with their preferred narrative all the time.

    Agree absolutely – the challenge of uninformed voters crosses all political boundaries, and even ostensibly intelligent people can easily fall into the trap of shutting out opposing viewpoints. There’s nothing more infuriating than a smug know-it-all proclaiming that because they are ‘smart’ their viewpoint is ‘correct’. Even if they’re right, acting in a condescending manner to others who ‘don’t get’ your opinion does nothing but persuade these people to ignore you and whatever argument you are apparently making.

    If nothing else, Brexit and the election of Trump should make clear to the Left that, if they want to win public opinion, they need to explain their ideas to the community and listen to what the community tells them back. It might be frustrating to dumb down a policy position or repeat the same thing a thousand times over, but you don’t get support by saying “you’re stupid and I’m smart so just do what I want”.

  10. Phil Osborne says

    I’m not sympathetic with Brennan’s ideas about replacing democracy (largely because I think the attempt to transition from democracy to epistocracy is a recipe for unmitigated disaster), but I do think this article is not using the most charitable definition of a high or low information voter. For Brennan, Ilya Somin and other democracy skeptics, the concept is not so much about whether or not you’re a System 1 thinker (fast, intuitive, emotional) or System 2 (slow, deliberate) thinker. Rather, it’s more about your possession of objective political knowledge. That is, do you know how many branches of government there are, how many senators each state has, how many immigrants there are in your country, how much we spend on foreign aid, etc.?

    High information voters generally get the answers to these objective questions correct, and low information voters do less well; for instance, one poll found that 1 in 4 Americans do not know who the colonies fought against during the Revolutionary War. Brennan and company are quick to point that that this is not because people are idiots; it’s because they are “rationally irrational.” In other words, given that your vote counts for almost nothing (statistician Andrew Gelman calculates that the odds your vote will be decisive in an election at one in 60 million), you gain little to no benefit from being politically informed. This forms the core of their argument against democracy: It creates perverse incentive structures with respect to being informed about the issues.

    One last point: Bryan Caplan, another major player in the anti-democracy sweepstakes, writes in The Myth of the Rational Voter that high information voters tend to lean left on social issues (especially if they are phrased as legal issues, like gay marriage or abortion), but substantially to the right on economic issues. This would seem to screen out much of the threat of social justice-types dominating the electorate under an epistocracy. And we also have to wonder about how well many on the social justice left would do on tests of objective political knowledge.

  11. DiscoveredJoys says

    The polarization we currently see is driven by the High Information Voter *believing* that their ‘facts’ support their ‘values’ which underpin their moral views. As a consequence they *believe* that people who select different ‘facts’ and use different ‘values’ must therefore be immoral. Hence the ‘moral outrage’ at the Brexit and Trump voters.

    Yet there are plenty of studies which demonstrate our cognitive biases, how we select ‘facts’ that support our established views and don’t even consider ‘facts’ that contradict them. You could argue that the moral outrage of the High Information Voter demonstrates that they are not as self-aware as they would like to believe…

  12. NickJ says

    Excellent piece … perhaps Polly Toynbee should read your article!

  13. DiscoveredJoys says

    …and another thing. If you were disenfanchised from contributing to the democratic processes why should you feel any loyalty about observing laws you couldn’t vote for or for paying taxes imposed by politicians that couldn’t even be bothered to seek your support?

  14. Jazi Zilber says

    Your point is very well taken.

    However, I still think Jason Brennan is right that being informed should be central to voting rights.

    BTW, I am not talking on social science graduates. Some parts of humanities can be lumped with plumbers for me.

    Here is another example supporting your view.

    Free trade has been assumed as unquestionably good by nearly all economists for a very long time.

    Now, we are hearing of evidnece that some people DO suffer from certain forms of free trade (the china shock (http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2016/03/david_autor_on_1.html)

    Minimum wages were supposed to always be bad for jobs. BUT we now know empirically that moderate minimum wages do not reduce employments (massive minimum wages are still not proven either way, but most economist strongly suspect they will reduce employment)

    In conclusion, I see both sides of this argument very strongly.

    Anyway, making voting conditional on knowing the employment rate, or such is not a bad idea IMHO. (even the employment rate statistics are subject to heavy arguments…..)

  15. Pingback: Using psychological insights in politics: can we do it without calling our opponents mental, hysterical, or stupid? | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  16. evilhippo says

    Excellent article. I tick all the boxes for a Clinton supporter or REMAIN voter. I have money. I am well educated. I am a cosmopolitan. I have an instinctive distrust of nationalists. I live in a hipster neighbourhood of London, drink artisanal beer and actually like overpriced rose lattes. And I am very tolerant.

    Ah, but that last one should alert you to the impending punchline.

    I was 100% supportive of Brexit.

    Why? Several reasons but to me it was mostly about driving my expensive hand crafted boot forcefully into the crotch of people like Jason Brennan and Polly Toynbee and all the rest of them. The article is correct, this is not the usual ‘rich vs. poor’ dynamic, I am loaded after all. It is nothing less than a revolt against an unjustifiably entitled, profound decadent and above all *intolerant* political, academic and media elite. The sheer HORROR of the establishment when Brexit carried the day was like a tonic for the soul. Bliss. Who knew tears could taste like Dom Perignon?

    I was indifferent at best to Trump, but the wailing and lamentation of the establishment when, following Brexit, Trump also won, well it made me realise that Conan was entirely correct about “what is best in life?” (and I am not referring to the American talk-show host).

    So yes, Mr. Brennan and all the others of your ilk, take your “low information voter” and “post-truth politics” insults and stick them somewhere moist and dark, or better yet, stay in your customary position and we will do it for you. The social and political tectonic plates are shifting.

    • G Pascal says

      evilhippo, according to the article below*, some sectors of the British population would have voted for Brexit based on their ethnic affiliation. Class status may not have been an important factor in their decision.

      * http://tinyurl.com/ztpduw4

  17. Smarty says

    Rush Limbaugh coined the phrase to describe the liberal democrat masses, the folks who fall for the obvious lies and who have little to no understanding of basic economic theory. Nice appropriation.

  18. Sam Eaton says

    I consider myself a high information voter. While my Japanese language skills are now virtually extinct after more than 40 years of disuse, my Vietnamese and Spanish are still quite serviceable. I have attended 17 Colleges and Universities in three different Countries(U.S.A, Japan and Viet Nam) and earned over 300 semester hours of College Credit.

    But, I just ain’t their kind of people. Bob Geldof, Jason Brennan and the Washington Post would be horrified at including this former Sailor, retired Army Sargent and holder of a mere two degrees, a B.S. and a B.A. and Viet Nam War Vetit belonging to their group

  19. Here in the US, the term “low information voter” is used as a descriptor of those who, regardless of their academic career or its lack, do not make any manner of personal attempt at fact-gathering in order to make informed political choices; instead, they rely upon the message du jour that is promulgated by the mass media. It is a matter of intellectual laziness, not of measurable intelligence. I have known many learned men who are abject fools.

  20. The issue isn’t that these people have “low” information, but the they have the WRONG information. Look at the campaigns for both Brexit and Trump; you’ll see a myriad of just plain WRONG information from those campaigns that convinced people to vote for them.

  21. Bang-a-gong says

    Are these the same high information voters who get their news from the DNC controlled mainstream media? Garbage in = Garbage out

  22. Rush limbaugh is who coined the phrase after Obama winning in 2008. Go to his website and learn the original definition. I won’t tell you here. Do your own homework, if you want to be a high info voter…..these professors are the truly low info people, so is this article writer, she doesnt even credit him for coining the phrase and what it really means. They are just more of the bubble people….

  23. Stephen T says

    Coined by Rush Limbaugh, and hijacked by the people the term refers to, who have nothing to offer but empty promises, degraded liberty and institutions, corruption, and psychological projection.

  24. jetty says

    When Obama took office in 2009, the Dems controlled the House, the Senate, 29 governorships and 27 state legislatures. Today, the Dems neither control the House nor the Senate, have only 18 governors and 12 state legislatures. Keep living in that echo chamber, liberals!

  25. That”s right Stephen T. No deplorables rioted after Obama beat McCain or after he beat Romney. The left loves to project to their political opponents what they really believe, they are the true racist, peace haters, that don’t believe in people and that common folk are very capable…. All they can say is “you are racist” because they have no ideas, anyway ideas that work in the real world. and all these college professors in America who teach this leftist communist junk, its all theory from books, but they benefit mightily from the good old USA golden egg. I will pay for the cost of any of them to move to Cuba…they are also cowards, they will never move there, Hey they can have their leftist utopia, only 90 miles from Key West., its all talk, that is all they are good at…

  26. Santoculto says

    “Low information” = inconvenient information to the current establishment

    “Higher information” = convenient ones.

    Conservatives tend to be excessively preventive while socially liberals tend to be excessively palliative. Moderate conservatives tend to be palliatively preventive and moderates socially liberals tend to be preventively palliative. I don’t know if this pattern is universal or independent from context or contextual. Seems when the tribe of certain people is in the power they tend to be more palliative while when they are opposition they tend to more preventive.

  27. Kristen McFarland says

    Those ‘low information’ voters are those who sadly enough read the New York Times, the WaPo and other mainstream and view alphabet media television outlets positively and not critically. Their resources are themselves. They continue to live in a certifiable bubble that allows no other information but what they conclude and a re-verification of themselves. That remains a sad fact. These very people consider themselves intellectually and morally superior to everyone else and our betters. But in reality have not a single element that is the factually accurate or the truth. The reason we are where we are today with a Donald Trump as a future President is because that media and the political side they support refused to recognize the reality outside themselves and the bubble they created for themselves. They stopped reporting objectively and waxed unnecessarily philosophical and solely and only on themselves and not the American people. When they forget who they serve and report to, there won’t be anyone to listen to them in the future. That too, is sadly true. That is why 83% of counties across America voted for Mr. Trump and less than twenty percent for his opponent.

  28. Santoculto says

    Socially liberals tend to be more impulsive anyway if they were compared with conservatives openness versus conscientiousness but I’m also talking about anxiety or caution to the ideas.

    Short term thinking style is palliative par excellence. Long term thinking style is preventive, of course.

    Instead predict probabilities to plan attitudes or behavior, palliative or short term thinkers “prefer” to solve problems when they appear, in th heat of moment.

  29. Steve Turner says

    A very well-written article. The idea of more votes for the educated is not new; Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin Universities had their own MP in the UK parliament well into the twentieth century, and more votes for graduates was considered during the Great Reform Acts of the century before, but it never came to pass. Looking at today’s educational institutions, I am deeply thankful!

  30. I disagree with the premise of this article.
    As Mark Twain said;
    “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
    People don’t have low information, they have incorrect information based on lies and biases. And they think they’re right because the lies FEEL right.

  31. Bobby Trosclair says

    Robert Heinlein proposed a society where the sole criterion for the exercise of a voting franchise (as well as the ability to hold public office) was service in the military, or a functional civilian alternative (but equally dangerous) for those whose physical or religious profiles prohibit them from carrying arms. The rationale for this society was that intelligence or knowledge are not the primary attributes that enable a society to survive, but rather group cohesion and the individual’s willingness to place the group’s interests above the individual’s concerns.

    One could as easily make the argument that such a system is an ideal form of government instead of an epistocracy, an idea which Mr. Brennan would no doubt greet with alarm, as he would William F. Buckley’s comment that a society would be better governed by the first 200 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of most of Boston’s educational institutions.

    I prefer our present system of government to that of Mr. Heinlein’s or Mr. Brennan’s, but if forced to choose between the last two, would prefer Mr. Heinlein’s.

    Mr. Brennan’s ideas had great currency in the 1930s, in what was then known as the Technocracy movement – a progressive ideology that asserted that scientists and engineers should be the ones governing our society as the most intelligent elite. In addition to forming a philosophical base for the fascistic movements in Europe, it also produced the odious Eugenics movement.

  32. Stephen T says

    Starship Troopers. Some excellent political analysis in that book. Heinlein was ahead of his time. My take is slightly different than yours: by serving in a free society, one becomes invested enough in it to feel a duty to protect and preserve it, and thus earns the right to vote as a “citizen”. Someone without that literal skin in the game is as likely as not to vote themselves unearned benefits, if given the chance, which enervates and enslaves both the recipients and the people forced to pay for them.

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  35. T Morgan says

    I think your points are right and I’ve made them myself, but the main conclusion seems odd. We agree on the decay of the radical academic left. We agree that the Trump victory was in part driven by a backlash against the pushy, noisy leftist elite. So I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m a little shocked that you haven’t simply observed both the behavior of Trump himself and the masses of cultist followers online (and at rallies) engaging in behavior that can only be interpreted in one way: They are, in practice and words, low information idiots. They say stupid, incorrect things. All the time. I’m baffled at how you could read Twitter, facebook fake news propagation, facebook itself, r/the_donald, Breitbart, news interviews and every other source of purely insane content and not have at least *some* notion that we’re dealing with people incapable of reasoning correctly. It doesn’t matter if something comes from the gut if it’s source is entirely fabricated and sinister.

    You’re obviously a smart person. I largely agree with you on everything, barring perhaps your kid gloves when it comes to the alt-right, but you should really consider the idea that there really are masses of dummies roving the U.S. I can’t speak to Europe because I don’t live there and I don’t understand all the reasons driving brexit. But sometimes stupid is as stupid does. I’ve seen one honest, intelligent Trump voter make a fair accounting for himself, which was really just a condemnation of modern leftist shenanigans. Count that against the many thousands of trolls and cretins I encounter daily. I know that’s not statistics, but I also think it’s blatantly self-evident. Just open the internet. Morons, everywhere. They say dumb, false things based on lies. If that doesn’t constitute a stupid, low-information voter, what in the world does??

  36. Sean O'Neill says

    Excellent article, spot on.

    It’s absurdly common for many people to deny or disparage any emotional/intuitional responses to the world, when we so often use our ‘passions’ to help guide our intellect in the first place. Ironically it’s these same life-denying people who wish everyone outside of their bubble had more ’empathy’.

    To be sceptical is to be uncertain, and the attempt to be in some sense undogmatic, but many people don’t realise that ‘doubt’ itself is an emotion. The facts (in any argument against one’s own position) often come secondary to the overriding feeling of suspicion; logical looking arguments are written off as clever sophistry and obscurantism. Just because someone cannot properly articulate why something ‘feels’ off doesn’t mean their intuition is invalidated. Often, with focussed thought applied only later, it is our instinct and intuition that leads us to truth.

  37. I like this article. It illustrates nicely the disdain that has been expressed for those of us who voted to Leave the EU.

    But this phenomenon is now so rampant, that I ask the question “why do they bother?” Evilhippo above suggests that the tectonic plates are shifting. I agree. Things are now happening so fast that the elite cannot cope with the changes. So they are circling the wagons and are peering fearfully outwards at what the world is becoming. These jibes are the only weapons they have left.

  38. Santoculto says

    We have

    low information (proles)

    higher information (smart)

    RIGHT information (rational)



    LOL information (leftits)

  39. Santoculto says


    everybody is, depending on perspective, individually speaking,

    all of it

    lol, low, higher and right information.

  40. Ἰωάννης says

    I found this quite insightful and informative, and it gives the vote-snobs a much needed drubbing. Well done!

  41. stuartcoyle says

    Interesting article. I will take opposition to the point made about Dutton. (He is my local federal member of parliament). He is explicitly taking a stance designed to make him more aligned with the most definitely racist far right such as the One Nation party and certain factions within his own party.

    Whilst his statement was prima facia true, was it not also relevant that the vast majority of those arrested are Australian citizens, between certain ages, male, or any other number of facts that you could note from a non-random sampling of the population. It may happen that there are more Muslims of Lebanese background than other backgrounds in Australia and this proportion is just reflecting that rather than any propensity for that nationality to be more radicalised.

    He was pulled up for dog whistling. As he should have been.

  42. Fred says

    Yep only people who voted for HRC are high info voters, which is why they believe that:

    Bernie voters are all racist and sexist
    That anyone who didn’t vote HRC is racist and sexist
    That Russia literally hacked the paper ballots in certain states to win the election for Trump
    That Trump is simultaneously too buddy buddy with Putin while risking nuclear war with Putin
    That the same intelligence agencies that they didn’t trust re WMDs in Iraq can suddenly be trusted now because a D is pushing for war
    That McCarthyism is all fine and “progressive” now. Vive le cold war!!! So liberal!
    That Russia is the root of all evil yet it’s fine and dandy to trust and to kiss the asses of such liberal states as Saudi Arabia and China.

    DNC = neocons, and so-called progressives are too stupid to see it because they view politics like a soccer game, where there team can do no wrong.

  43. Pingback: Hurting Low-Information Voters' Wittle Feelings - Bleeding Heart Libertarians

  44. It seems your point here is that high-information voters make just as bad errors as low-information voters. As far as I can tell, you haven’t even tried to make the argument that low information voters make good decisions.

    So, if that is correct, basically we are hopelessly at the mercy of the people in charge making bad decisions.

    Wonderful. Isn’t Democracy great?

  45. My sole disagreement with Brennan is, if we’re going to ditch universal suffrage, why not go full neocameralist and transform “vote right” in “sovcrop stock” and make people put money where their mouth is.

  46. G Pascal says

    For the Brennans of this world, there is this:

    There are knowledge-based reasons to vote a particular way … and there are emotion-based reasons to vote another way*. Who’s to judge which one is better?

  47. Ok, Clare. I will stop calling “them” low information voters. I will start using the more accurate sobriquet “mis-information voters”. A rose is still a rose.

    • And you’re still not an independent thinker who can’t differentiate between ideology and fact. You are the absolute definition of an uninformed voter

  48. I want to start out by saying that I’m not trying to silence anyone or any point of view. My opinion is that of one person and should be judged as such.

    There are numerous points in Ms. Lehmann’s piece that deserve further discussion and dissemination. We should definitely talk about cognitive biases and systematically unobserved types of information that give typical Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic individuals like myself a skewed view of the world. The truth is that every demographic group has substantial room for improvement in this regard.

    In particular, I feel extremely frustrated at how the protesters at US Berkeley responded to the potential presence of Milo Yiannopoulos on campus. Honestly, it enraged me. I felt like it damaged what I love about this country. More generally, I feel profoundly dissatisfied with the way my fellow US liberals conduct themselves and I devote a fair amount of thought to it. In that, I identify with Ms. Lehmann’s point of view.

    However, I think she’s too fast to dismiss the concept of low-information voters. I think it would be more sensible to broaden the term because it’s not about left-right ideology. Just as I feel that the anti-Yiannopoulos protesters at Berkeley used their rights in an irresponsible way, I think many people use their voting rights in an irresponsible way. I’m not saying that we should take away those rights, but I do think that we should have social norms that encourage people to make socially beneficial decisions. I think that includes voting behavior.

    To me, this line of argument isn’t anti-conservative or anti-liberal it’s anti-ignorance. There’s lots of ignorance to go around at the moment. In fact, we’re all ignorant about most things. Each of us knows a fair amount about some things and very little about a huge number of other things. A person with knowledge of sociology or physics isn’t necessarily less ignorant than a person who knows about fishing or fixing cars. I value what my doctor knows and also what the man who picks up my garbage knows. Their knowledge affects my life and the lives of other people and if they don’t inform themselves then they’re being irresponsible. Voting affects people’s lives too. If we use our voting rights without informing ourselves about the relevant issues and considering them in a thoughtful manner, then we’re being irresponsible. But, that’s just my opinion.

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