Friday, October 03, 2008

Should an Educated Vote be Worth Than an Uneducated One?

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill

I think of this quote often when I listen to call-ins to talk radio and C-SPAN. As far as I know, democracy is the only system where a completely ignorant person has equal say to a knowledgeable person.

Should an educated vote have more value?

Actually, it turns out that while everyone's vote counts the same, because educated people are more likely to vote, per capita educated people have 1.84 times the influence as the undereducated.

From this 2006 census data (.xls) we find that of those 18 years and older living in America, there were 58.2 million college graduates and 102.2 million people who had not attended any college (and another 60 million who attended some college that are ignored in this analysis). College graduates voted at a rate of 60% and those that had not attended any college at a rate of 32%. The educated cast 34.6 million votes vs. 33 million for the undereducated. While the educated comprise 27% of the population, they make up 36% of the voters vs. 44% and 34% respectively for the undereducated. Per capita, the educated populace therefore has 1.84 times the influence of the undereducated populace.

Is this a good thing that educated people have influence in a democracy? On the one hand, the more educated the voters, the better they are able to understand the issues and less likely to fall prey to overly simplistic solutions from politicians. On the other hand, politicians enact policies that get them the most votes and are not as likely therefore to focus on policies that help the poor and undereducated.


Anonymous said...

Education has little to do with how well a voter understands the issues. Actual life experience is far more important. Educated people screwed up Wall Street, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

Some of the most foolish people in the world are also highly educated.

Fat Knowledge said...


I would agree that some highly educated people are foolish and just because a person has greater education does not guarantee that that voter has a greater understanding of the issues.

But, overall I think that a randomly selected educated person will have more understanding of the issues than someone with less education.

Educated people did get us into trouble with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but had the general pubic understood the potential for problems years ago (as many educated and knowledgeable people on both sides of the isle had warned), then I believe the problem could have been avoided.

Put another way, I don't think we would have better understanding of the issues and better governance if the populace was less educated.

Anonymous said...

Educated people are "typically" exposed to Political topics at colleges as a part of their curriculum. They interact with professors, debate, research, and investigate issues as part of their coursework. This extra exposure does not guarantee better understanding, but this consideration should be taken.

Wall street folks knew the risks they took, but in my opinion, did not care who had to clean up, pay, or suffered from their greed. Its part of the new american business cycle.

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