Rational Voters

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It's been a few months since my last post here at T&B as I have been busy with this semester's work and the election was somewhat of a distraction. The results the other day were a pleasant outcome for me made all the more enjoyable by watching it in an auditorium with about thirty or forty other grad students. The beer and wine were great but some of the comments coming from other attendees were hilarious and made the evening that much more enjoyable( BTW, I am not one for giveng in to any peer pressure and proudly proclaim my preferences, so there might have been some rubbing it in at the end of the night). As you might expect, the phrase "how could these people be so stupid" was muttered once or twice.

I'm always interested in how voters make decisions and what incentives are in place to guide them. Are voters really as stupid as the people last night and those around the world like to proclaim? Or do they in fact make rational decisions that work in their best interest?

As education is the achilles heal of the Republican Party, it seems that anything which could be done to mitigate it as an issue and, also, weaken the education unions which are part the Democratic establishment, is in its best interest. Charter schools are a step in that direction, however, G.O.P. voters in Washington don't seem to agree. Jim Miller has interesting analysis why(via Joanne Jacobs):

Rural Areas And Charter Schools: Washington state voters again rejected charter schools, voting against Referendum 55 by 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent. The reason is not hard to see. Many Republican leaders backed it, but rural Republican voters did not. Take a look at the current results, by county, and you will see what I mean. In little Garfield county, just 1,077 voters had voted on the issue, when I checked this afternoon, and just 35 percent of them had voted yes. The same county was giving 735 votes to the Republican candidate for governor, Dino Rossi, who supports charter schools, and just 387 votes to his Democratic opponent, Christine Gregoire. If you look at other rural counties, you will see the same pattern, strong opposition to charter schools and strong support for Republican candidates, many of them favoring charter schools. If rural voters had given the same support to charter schools that they did to Republicans, Referendum 55 might have passed.

I hope that I do not disappoint some of my friends by saying this, but I think this combination of attitudes by rural voters is rational. They are right to support Republicans, who are far more likely to listen to their concerns. And they are not wrong to oppose charter schools, which offer little positive to most rural areas.

The great advantage of charter schools, in my view, is that they introduce competition into education. But to have competing schools requires a density of population not found in most rural areas. My little high school had a mere 130 students when I graduated � and several very long bus routes. (For some from big cities, I should add that 130 was the number for the entire school, not the senior class.) And it was that large only after two towns consolidated while I was in junior high school. It was difficult for the two towns to support a single school system; it would have been terribly difficult for them to support two systems. And if a charter school tried to serve a large rural area, it would find that many of its students had to spend half the school day traveling.

And that isn't all. A charter school in a rural area would threaten the existence of an existing school system far more than it would in an urban area. A large suburban school can lose hundreds of students to a charter school and adapt; a rural school would be badly damaged by the same loss. This possibility would dismay most rural communities, where the schools are, more often than not, their psychological centers.

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This page contains a single entry by Bob published on November 5, 2004 4:39 AM.

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