While reading up for a post about the wilful ignorance endemic in “the young people today,” I came across a reference to a book called Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter by Rick Shenkman. Deee-pressing:
  • Only 2 in 5 voters can name the three branches of the federal government.
  • Only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a map.
  • Only 1 in 5 know that there are 100 federal senators.
  • 49% of Americans polled think the President has the authority to suspend the Constitution.
I would be interested to see how similar the results would be among Irish and UK citizens. Churchill, as ever, was right – the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with an average voter.

I was interested to note the feedback from my 21 year-old nephew with regard to a referendum we had in Ireland about signing up to the Lisbon Treaty. His friends, according to him, opted out from voting and expressed crudely simplistic views with regard to the treaty. Also, he said, most of them refused to acknowledge that their vote could possibly mean anything. I gave him a number to use with these dissenters:

537


“What’s that?” he asked.
“The number of votes that George W Bush won by in Florida in the 2000 election against Al Gore,” I smugly replied, knowing that my nephew and his friends are not W fans.
“537? That’s all?”
“Yup. And on average, about 40-45% of people in the United States don’t show up to vote in Presidential elections.”
“Really?”
“Yup.”
“Thank you Rowan, I’ll be using that …”

There’s another line I forgot to give him – a thought from Plato which essentially states that if you refuse to participate in the political process, you have no right to complain when you find yourself being governed by your inferiors.