Does Saying You Wouldn't 'Buy' A Congressional Seat Mean You Don't Care About Politics?

from the or-that-you-care-about-democracy? dept

A new "study" that tried to determine how much people care about politics did a little thought experiment asking people how much they would "pay" for the party of their choice (Republican or Democrat only, since apparently third parties and independents don't exist in this mythical world) to be guaranteed to be elected. The researchers were surprised by the results:
In a recent YouGov survey, we gave respondents a hypothetical scenario. "Suppose that you alone could determine whether a Democrat or a Republican represents your Congressional district by paying a specific dollar amount? How much would you be willing to pay to ensure that a Congressman from your preferred party will win the office?" We expected that most Americans would place a high value on the party of their Congressmen. Shockingly, 55% of respondents said "ZERO" -- they would not pay even $1 to place their preferred party in power.
From this they conclude that people really just don't care about politics, saying that if they wouldn't pay (even hypothetically) it shows how little they care about politics. Of course, there are some pretty obvious alternative explanations as well. As Andrew Sullivan points out, a much more favorable interpretation could be that people understand that buying elected officials is wrong:
One can care deeply about politics and still be unwilling to pay for an electoral outcome on the grounds that it would undermine democracy.
On top of that, I would assume that the limiting of the survey to only "Republican" or "Democrat" also likely contributed to the results. A report from last year showed that 39% of the electorate identifies themselves as independent, so I would imagine those folks wouldn't be nearly as interested in paying for a Democrat or Republican to hold a particular seat -- even if they happen to lean one way or the other (as many independents do).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    rw (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 6:00am

    Pay me?

    Maybe they should ask how much each Congressman pay directly to each constituent for a seat in Congress.

     

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 10:12am

      Re: Pay me?

      Don't the Democrats already have that figured down to a tenth of a cent?

      The preceding was a joke. If you got angry about it, look into getting a sense of humor.

       

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 6:45am

    The road to hell...

    I would buy a representative if I had the money, but only to tell him to do his/her job proper. What I would be doing is wrong and probably a step in a worse direction, so I can see why a lot of people wouldn't buy one.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 6:47am

    Better question

    They should have asked "How much would you pay to prevent either the democrats or republicans from being elected?"

    Considering how much is spent on attack ads, people clearly prefer this option.

     

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    Dan (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 6:57am

    It doesn't matter

    The smart ones have figured out that neither party is worth anything.

     

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 10:15am

      Re: It doesn't matter

      Not worth anything? Nah, they'd both be a great help in the agriculture industry. With all the bullshit they spout, nobody would ever have to buy fertilizer again.

       

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    bdhoro (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Its the politicians

    I think the truth is most people realize that if you want to be a politician, you probably have a lot of psychological issues such as being an egomaniac and power hungry. It doesn't matter what party, or non-party you belong to, if you really believe that you're the one who should be running things than you're probably not the most savory character.

    Its a real problem - anyone who's normal and sane wouldn't want really want the position to begin with, so we end up with some real winners in office.

     

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      rangda (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:57am

      Re: Its the politicians

      Political office is one of those jobs where if you want it, you shouldn't be allowed to have it.

       

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        Killer_Tofu (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:06am

        Re: Re: Its the politicians

        The only reason I would ever run is to fight the Repubs and Dems who want to push through all the stupid stuff they do.

         

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        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 11:07am

        Re: Re: Its the politicians

        Eh, possibly. Lately though they've been setting the bar really freaking low for people to think they could do a better job than the current chuckleheads.

         

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        Rose M. Welch (profile), Dec 17th, 2010 @ 12:19am

        Re: Re: Its the politicians

        I don't want to be a politician. I want to be Queen.

        I'd be good at it, too.

         

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      The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 10:27am

      Re: Its the politicians

      Which is why I think a limited* form of fascism is the way to go. There's something about overthrowing a dictator that's just a lot more honest than our current political process. Plus, you'd see a lot more governing from the middle if for no other reason than self preservation.

      * Limited in that the dictator isn't allowed security from domestic threats.

       

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:13am

    IMHO

    I would pay a fair amount of money to get Ron Paul as the president. I'm not saying he would do a great job, though I suspect he would, I just think it would interesting to see what someone who thinks the federal government has too much power would do if he were in charge of it.

     

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      Hephaestus (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:22am

      Re: IMHO

      "I would pay a fair amount of money to get Ron Paul as the president. ... I just think it would interesting to see what someone who thinks the federal government has too much power would do if he were in charge of it."

      Yeah and I bet you are one of these people that believed the whole "HOPE" message during the last presidential election.

      And what in the hell is Obama Gurl upto now ?

       

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        The Infamous Joe (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:38am

        Re: Re: IMHO

        Yeah and I bet you are one of these people that believed the whole "HOPE" message during the last presidential election.

        I was, in fact. I choose to believe people until they are proven to be untrustworthy. Obama won't be getting my vote net go around, trust me. However, that is completely beside the point (and surprisingly trollish, coming from you..?) The *reason* I would find it interesting is because it is easy to say those with power over you should have less power, but not as easy to say that *you* should have less power. So, it would be interesting to see if he would put his hypothetical money where is proverbial mouth is, ya dig?

         

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    jsl4980 (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    One rep doesn't help

    I think there's a few other possible reasons for this - the first is that most representatives suck at representing the people. They usually represent one extreme or the other and a lot of people can't identify with those views.

    The second reason is that just getting one lonely representative in office won't do much to affect policy. If I could pay to get any rep of my choosing into a power position then that would probably be worth it. But just getting either one of the two crazy puppets in my district into office is a waste of money.

     

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    dev, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 7:30am

    also

    if their current representative was from their preferred party, then I assume people would not pay.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    Politics, just like the debates here, are dominated by a few percentage points of the population at each end of the debate. The middle is rarely very active.

    Let's look at the numbers. if 55% would pay nothing, and 39% are "independent", you could imply that only 16% of party supporters would not pay (assuming all independents would not pay, after all, they have nothing to pay for).

    Taken another way, when you remove the independents from the deal, only 27% of people would not pay to get their candidate in, provided they align themselves with a party.

    Seems like things are pretty normal here.

     

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    Mr. Mooze, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:25am

    How much would you pay to get them OUT of office?

    There is the real question - since people perceive they are all corrupt and clueless about how to fix things.
    It's a bad perception when we consider them going home for the holidays a good thing "so they can't mess the country up worse"...

     

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    Jay (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:37am

    Rhetorical Question

    Will the US political system ever grow up beyond this needless two party system that is beginning to cripple American democracy?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Pay?

    Pay for a particular candidate to get into office? Why do that when you can lobby the current ones using "incentives"?

     

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    Rob Shaver, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    Here's my post on YouGov about this

    One major fallacy in your poll is your assumption that one of these two parties, or any other party, represent me, my beliefs or my aspirations for our government. It is my considered opinion that anyone who can succeed in getting elected in the current state of the US election environment has had to compromise his/her principals to the point that he/she is no longer fit to hold the office. Why don't you poll that?

    So I would have said ZERO too, because neither party has earned my trust to act in good faith after being elected. To conclude that Americans do not care about who governs them based on this highly flawed and poorly conceived survey says more about you than it does about the Americans who participated.

    "YouGov is a professional research and consulting organization" ... you get paid for doing this?
    "What the world thinks" ... not if this is an example of your work. Think again.

    So, no, I care little about politics, but I do care about my country and how it is governed and how it's operated. Maybe your little survey did reach the correct answer but asked the wrong question.

    Peace,

    Rob:-]

     

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    RobShaver (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:46am

    This is my post in YouGov about this survey

    One major fallacy in your poll is your assumption that one of these two parties, or any other party, represent me, my beliefs or my aspirations for our government. It is my considered opinion that anyone who can succeed in getting elected in the current state of the US election environment has had to compromise his/her principals to the point that he/she is no longer fit to hold the office. Why don't you poll that?

    So I would have said ZERO too, because neither party has earned my trust to act in good faith after being elected. To conclude that Americans do not care about who governs them based on this highly flawed and poorly conceived survey says more about you than it does about the Americans who participated.

    "YouGov is a professional research and consulting organization" ... you get paid for doing this?
    "What the world thinks" ... not if this is an example of your work. Think again.

    So, no, I care little about politics, but I do care about my country and how it is governed and how it's operated. Maybe your little survey did reach the correct answer but asked the wrong question.

    Peace,

    Rob:-]

     

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    Overcast (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 8:47am

    Government in general and our 'representatives' get enough profit. I wouldn't pay a dime for either - the results are pretty much the same.

    Although... if I could pick a third party - well, maybe I would cough up some cash.

     

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    Doug D (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 9:39am

    Change the Question

    Wouldn't a better question be, "How much would you pay to elect a trusted representative that shares your views on government?" Then it's not Rep vs Dem vs Independent, it's about how much it is worth to you to actually have a voice that you can trust. I'm willing to bet that number would be a lot higher than $0 for most people. I know "my party" got their senator elected again this year but he certainly doesn't represent my views.

    Like most flawed surveys the researchers are left drawing invalid conclusions because of a poor survey technique.

     

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      David Liu (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

      Re: Change the Question

      Well, even then, the entire question hints at corrupting democracy itself.

      If you really look at the question hard enough, it boils down to:
      "How much would you pay to elect your chosen representative by buying votes off?"

      Majority of people probably would say zero to this.

       

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    Comboman (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Different question

    The design of the survey question reveals more about the person who wrote the question than it does about the respondents (i.e. he believes everything people value has a monetary price tag). The survey would likely have very different results if it asked "If there was a tight race in your district and every vote was critical to deciding the outcome, how much money would someone have to offer you to stay home and not vote." Essentially it asks the same thing, but puts morally distasteful "paying for votes" on the other side of the equation.

     

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    Dohn Joe, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 10:39am

    That Decision IS Worth Zero

    What's nice is this clearly highlights how few people still fall for this false dichotomy and are excited by concepts like "left" and "right" or "conservative" and "liberal". Maybe people are starting to realize they're not as simple as a binary digit and don't have to either think in terms of just "0" or "1".

    What would I pay to have a Republican rape me from office vs. a Democrat? Yeah...that would be ZERO too! I'm not too keen on WHO rapes me, but in NOT GETTING RAPED!

     

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      monkyyy, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 3:31pm

      Re: That Decision IS Worth Zero

      i like how the people who didn't grow up with much tech, assume so many things are 1 or 0, but people like me where everything ive ever known is tech easily gets fuzzy logic

       

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    phil237 (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    Would not know who to pay

    Business and foreign interests already own our government, just look at who they always look out for.

     

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    Rex Karz (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 3:06pm

    an alternate hypothesis

    Maybe the high number who would not pay anything to determine who goes to congress for their district simply says that they believe there is no meaningful difference between Democrats and Republicans.

    I think both parties are really agents of the Fascist Oligarchy that really runs the country. Nothing more nothing less.

    ... now where is my tin foil hat.

     

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      monkyyy, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

      Re: an alternate hypothesis

      the republicans are the rich who dont think of the poor at all
      the democrats are the rich who realize the poor can still rebel and only (sightly) help them to keep them from destroying the upper class

      the 3rd partys are the poor

       

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