Heuristics and Sophistication in the Voting Booth
35 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 4 Oct 2012
Date Written: 2012
As an explanation for voter decision making under conditions of low knowledge and interest in politics, scholars have turned to the idea of decision shortcuts, or heuristics. This paper focuses on answering three major questions in the literature on heuristic decision making: who is using heuristics, what heuristics are they using, and do these heuristics help individuals make good political decisions. One theoretically and empirically important variable in these questions is an individual’s political sophistication. Despite the agreement between scholars on the importance of sophistication, its role in heuristic decision making has been confused. We argue that the importance of political sophistication is primarily as a selection mechanism, leading high sophisticates to use a partisan heuristic and low sophisticates to use an affective heuristic. We additionally find, counter to previous research, that there is no interactive effect between sophistication and heuristics. The effectiveness of heuristics in helping individuals make good vote choices will vary depending on type. But, this effectiveness is constant across levels of sophistication.
Keywords: heuristics, vote, sophistication, information search, knowledge, correct vote
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation