Ocean Champions is the only political voice for ocean health. We take a non-partisan approach in working with
the U.S. Congress to ensure ocean health through electoral and legislative action.

The Triumph of the Low-Information Voter

Posted by: Jack Sterne

So what do we make of Barack Obama’s and Nancy Pelosi’s willingness to now consider offshore drilling?  Have they seen the light and realized how much having a vote on expanded offshore drilling is going to benefit the American consumer?

No — they’ve got elections to deal with, and we live in a poll-driven universe.  When two-thirds of folks think that drilling offshore will have an effect on gas prices, at some point politicians have to respond, no matter how irrational that belief is.

It’s unfortunate that ignorance on the part of so many voters drives so much of policy in this country.  I don’t mean the ignorance comment disparagingly, it’s just that most people aren’t wonks and don’t have either the time or inclination to delve into most public policy issues.

I’ve often heard that the average American spends just five minutes a week thinking about the whole range of policy issues out there — the war, the economy, health care, the environment, you name it.  So to think that they’ll figure out on their own what to think about offshore drilling is naive in the extreme.

Ultimately, we in the environmental community have to take some responsibility for not being able to talk to voters in a language that they understand and that makes sense to them.  Does it mean we shouldn’t try to explain the facts to them?  Of course not.  But it does mean that we have to figure out how to speak their language and the truth is that most of us don’t.

Until we do, we can expect to keep losing on issues like offshore drilling.

Date Posted: August 20, 2008 @ 6:25 pm


  1. Well, I certainly wish I had the patience to frame messages in the terms that the ignorant can comprehend. Unfortunately, where offshore oil drilling is concerned, I just feel like throwing my shoe at someone, most of the time. (Yeah, I know it’s not a pretty visual coming from a communications professional).

    Just back from a weekend dinner party with other neighbors and ocean dwellers. These are people who are fortunate enough to thrive on the Monterey Bay. Their kids swim in the ocean. They surf in it. They photograph the sunsets. They walk the beaches. They benefit so much of the beauty that the blue. And, I kid you not, two guys at the table actually said: “We really will need to open up the oil drilling. Just so long as it’s not in my backyard, I don’t care.”

    Needless to say, my husband had to usher me away into the kitchen for a couple rounds of deep breathing.

    What the heck?!

    Comment by Denise — August 25, 2008 @ 12:16 pm
  2. I think people have the information. People get it that risking the oceans today won’t produce more gas for their cars for about eight years. I think they just don’t see any other option. No new vision. So they grasp at any thing that looks like a solution that will not cause them to change. More of the same is easier than something new and different - even if it is better.

    Comment by Maureen — August 25, 2008 @ 10:08 pm
  3. […] The thing is, I can never escape the fact that as I get older my teeth are wearing down and I will have more problems. So the answer, in this case, apparently is, “Drill baby, Drill!” But do you ever pause to wonder about the motives of the people pushing the hardest to drill offshore? Or who is most likely to profit from hasty decisions? (Paging Dr. Barrel, Dr Oil Barrel.) At least my dentist takes x-rays, shows me the problem, and explains the options before the drill comes out. And if he drills I don’t have to wait decades to know if it helped. I do have to say, I’m still a little creeped out when he goes on about national security needs and wraps himself in the flag just before shooting me full of Novocain. But hey, what is it they say about pain and gain, or is it numb and dumb? […]

    Pingback by Ocean Champions » Drill Here? Drill Now? — September 17, 2008 @ 9:54 am

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Ocean Champions is the only political voice for ocean health. We take a non-partisan approach in working with the U.S. Congress to ensure ocean health through electoral and legislative action.

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