Is the electorate stupid?

When the great and innovative American political consultant, and author of the brilliant The election game and how to win it, Joseph Napolitan died in 2014, Campaigns & Elections magazine published in tribute some of his greatest campaign hints.

This one in particular caught my eye amongst the multitudes of wisdom:

Never underestimate the intelligence of the voters, nor overestimate the amount of of knowledge at their disposal.

That puts rather more elegantly a point I’ve often made.

When voters are happy to debate passionately the intricacies of the off-side law in football or the way the Eurovision Song Contest’s voting system works, it’s a reminder that the issue isn’t that the public doesn’t understand party political issues. Rather, the public is rarely that interested in politics. It is that lack of interest which makes it so important to turn political policies into short, sharp and eye-catching messages.

Hence Chapter 5 of 101 Ways To Win An Election: “Sound bites are good”, which starts with Mark Twain’s advice to see “a minimum amount of sound to a maximum amount of sense” and goes on to draw the political lessons from the Gettysburg Address.

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