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).