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Two Professors Say Americans Are Too Stupid for Democracy to Work

Written by Gary North on March 1, 2012

A pair of university professors in psychology have concluded the voters do not have enough intelligence to make rational assessments of what is good for them or good for the nation. Anyway, that is what this news report says.

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

To make this stick, the studies would have to show scientifically that an elite of intelligent voters are able to avoid the weaknesses listed in the study. These people would have to be objectively capable of making these decisions based on intelligence alone.

No such studies exist.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, “very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills.

The problem is not just political. It appears that dumb people are allowed to make decisions in other areas. They do not have the ability to do this.

“We’re just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. “To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people,” Dunning said. In one study, the researchers asked students to grade quizzes that tested for grammar skill. “We found that students who had done worse on the test itself gave more inaccurate grades to other students.” Essentially, they didn’t recognize the correct answer even when they saw it.

This raises a question: If not the voters, then who should make the decisions? On what legal basis? Empowered by whom?

The most incompetent among us serve as canaries in the coal mine signifying a larger quandary in the concept of democracy; truly ignorant people may be the worst judges of candidates and ideas, Dunning said, but we all suffer from a degree of blindness stemming from our own personal lack of expertise.

The economist asks of every benefit and every liability, “Compared to what?” So should everyone else, in every area of life.

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58 thoughts on “Two Professors Say Americans Are Too Stupid for Democracy to Work

  1. I will trust the people as a whole before liberal global elites any day.

  2. Maybe if Americans had competent candidates and access to reliable information, their decisions would be more informed. The problem remains, who can we trust to give us unbiased information on all of the candidates? Certainly not the MSM!

  3. Barry willy says:

    This is the same professor that are putting out students that know nothing.

    I will trust the people before these professor.

    The problem is that Regan’s do not come along every election.

    Good men will not put them self through the disgusting media.

  4. These guys are so right. Case in point. Obama, pelosi, Reid, Frank, Shumer, wasser-person Shultz. Enough said.

  5. We will see in November. Will you vote for "hope & change" or will you question the "change"? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

  6. Actually it is the two professors who are to stupid for Democracy to work . If these two had any brains at all , they would know that we , America , are a REPUBLIC , it is what we were founded as . We have a democratic form of government meaning that our leaders a elected by the people to serve the people not, vice versa . This is something Democrats like to forget . Case in point , Nancy Pelosi and her insider trading deals. She believes she did nothing wrong and perhaps technically she didn't under the rules . But as I recall , Martha Stewart went to jail for pretty much the same thing .

    Sorry boys , your idea of Democracy doesn't work because American's are to smart for it . We the People ! John Adams tried to convince Congress that the people were not smart enough to govern themselves and pushed for big government . He was proven wrong . You are wrong as well .

  7. lilbear68 says:

    we could make better choices if we had an unbiased and ethical media

  8. The "professors" are just mad because there are voters out there they haven't had a chance to brainwash to the liberal/marxist way of thinking…..thank heaven for that!!! See you in NOV…..

  9. Hmm. Two psychology professors. At state- and federally-funded institutions supported by tax dollars. With inflated salaries courtesy of all those "stupid" taxpayers. Whose research is funded by federal grants underwritten by tax dollars. Living in an ivory tower where tuitions have exceeded the rate of inflation for how many decades now? And they wonder why more and more Americans don't want to saddle their kids with a worthless college degree and a lifetime of debt slavery repaying those student loans. Ah well, those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

  10. Doug Smith says:

    Dunning and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Do you think this applies to them as well or are they the intelligent elite who seek to rule us poor ignorant, incompetent peons.

  11. harbimger says:

    I completely agree with the two professors, why? Barry Goldwater, Lyndon LaRouge and Ross Perot were presidential candidates who loved this country and they'd have been better presidents than the candidates they lost to, why? Because the majority of the electorate was too stupid to see, to analyze their political platforms and compared them with those of their opponents; they let NBC, CNN, FOX and, others tell them who to vote for; they waited for the Baseball season to get serious about the future of their Country. Have we gotten better? Far from it, History will repeat itself among Republicans when they nominate the wrong candidate to run against Obama by ditching Ron Paul for somebody else with a dark and nefarious political past. At least read "The Revolution A Manifesto", get to know the man. Examine what he has voted for in Congress and see all the Pork he has gotten rid of. He is the only Congressman that at the end of the Fiscal year returns the money, the unused portion of his allotment. It'll be many elections before we find another one like him.

  12. To Harbimger – I agree with you 100%. If more voters would just read about Ron Paul they would understand. His record speaks for itself and he doesn't flip-flop. He's the only candidate who will restore this great country.

  13. jeff martin says:

    This leaves the left out since they view “everything” with blinders on and can only do things they’ve been told!! Truly a sad bunch of mindless idiots!!

  14. BTW, that's "Washerman Schitz"

  15. Amen to that. He being a professor and can't seem to educate his students to understand what he's saying in this article? I too, will trust the people before I would him, the media or a politician.

  16. billstanley1 says:

    They are smart enough to vote for big-government politicians that tell them they will receive more money and benefits via redistribution of income / wealth. http://www.newsandopinions.net

  17. I never met a psychologist that didn't need one.

  18. Let's hope they are not too stupid in 2012.
    I'm sure those professors voted for nobama so what does that make them????????

  19. He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that professors are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills.

  20. Dave Langdon says:

    If you are interviewing Occupy Idiots from the colleges and universities you woul come to that conclusion. How about talking the the people that pay the bills.

  21. Not-a-RINO says:

    I have stated in the past many times I would like to require everyone who wants to register to vote to pass a ‘Citizen’s Basic Test’. The test, written in English, would contain 10 simple questions such as:

    1. What colors are on the American flag?

    2. How many stars are on the flag?

    3. How many states make up the United States? (Obama would miss this one as he thinks we have 57 or 58)

    4. Who was the first president?

    5. How many branches of government are there?

    6. What document guarantees your rights?

    7. Abraham Lincoln was the president during the Civil War. T or F

    8. Our current president is whom?

    9. The Declaration of Independence separated the 13 original colonies from which country?

    10. You must be an American citizen to vote in this country? T or F

    I would estimate we would lose about 25% of the people going to the polls this November. It flies in the face of common sense to expect ignorant people to make wise decisions. This easy test would weed out the most ignorant amongst us.

  22. The problem may be more GREED than anything else. Most Americans want instant gratification now even if it means their grand childern for decades to come will pay dearly for it.

  23. These two professors made one little error in their study. America is not a Democracy; America is a Republic. Or at least that's what the Founding Fathers intended to set up. A democracy involves directly electing representatives while a republic has indirect elections of representatives. There's a reason why Senators were originally elected by the state legislatures and why we use the Electoral College system.

  24. First, we are not a democrasy but a constitutional republic. Originally, only property owners could vote. That kept those without skin in the game from voting themselves other peoples money. All the wizards of smart have thought they were improving on the original design when they simply corrupted it, now to the extent that voting is even fraudulent with more votes cast than there are voters in some areas, dead and illegal aliens voting over and over. And the libtards scream if one mentions photo ids. The ruling class seek greater voter participation so that the clueless and retarded are voting as instructed by their new found friends. We have destroyed a functional system and the greatest civilization ever.

  25. You would think the two professors might have heard that this country is NOT supposed to be a democrasy, but is a constitutional representative republic.

  26. Say it out loud.

  27. Hm, I think that Senat, Congress and President were voted on. Am I right? So who put those idiots into administration in the first place?

  28. Paul Divine says:

    There are lots of intellegent voters in this nation. The problem—- not enough of them to counter the hoards of voters that become hypnotiz3ed by the rhetoric spewed out by the news media and the politicians running for office. Many politicians are expert at putting many voters under a hypnotic spell. Obama is a prime example of this truth. Obama used his Carnval Barker skils to control enough voters to be elected as president. This is a tactic that the Muslim lraders to brainwash the multidudes of Islamic Htptonists to stay in control of the masses in the nations that thery control.

    Obama used the Muslim tactic of Hypnosis to garner a following in this nation that still indures after three years. This in effect is Mind control of those who do not recognize what is happening. It worked well for all the dictators throughout the past centuries. George Soros chose Obama to run for president because he, Obama, was an expert Hypnotist.

    Actually the two professors were correct, in general, they did not give the complete story. Generally, voters are using tactics, (Hypnotism,) that college Proffessors have pounded into their minds in all the universities in this nation.

  29. Based on the 2008 election i suppose one would think this is true, However when we look at the voters responsible for the current occupier of the highest office in the land, we find them to be well educated. So one can only surmise that it may be they, who are too dumb to understand what is best for the country. OBO 2012 That's; Oust Barack Obama 2012.

  30. Voters are stupid. Look who we elected for president. Most voters only care if they have an R or D next to their names. They have no idea what they stand for, no idea where they are on the issues, they never read up on their past, they only care about being fed free money, and that is what democrats do. What happens when the free money runs out? I would much rather have a boring, smart, business minded, fiscally intelligent president than one who considers himself a rock star. BO.
    The American people better wake up and smell the coffee. Greece is where we are headed with democrats in charge. China will eventually cut up our credit card and what do we do then, AUSTERITY BIG TIME. You can't spend money we do not have and unlike Greece nobody can bail us out. Get Obama and these senate democrats out of there folks. PRINTING MONEY IS NOT THE ANSWER.

  31. The biggest problem with this article is that the United States is not a Democracy. The United States is a Republic. Any country that wants a true Democracy wants a mob rules country, which we are becoming because of the mob boss Obama. Starting class warfare….well maybe it is time for another revolution which Thomas Jefferson said that a Republic needs from time to time to stay on track. Trust me, you do not want to live in a true Democracy. It does not mean what most people think it means.

  32. 2WarAbnVet says:

    Unfortunately, they have a prime example to support their hypothesis – Obama!

  33. The statement, “It appears that dumb people are allowed to make decisions in other areas. They do not have the ability to do this,” seems an apt description of Congress. That’s how we got the housing bubble and high gasoline prices, to cite just two examples.

  34. Cliffystones says:

    I have to wonder how much we taxpayers paid for their study of the obvious?

  35. Junk Bin says:

    Grind children through public dumbed down slanted schools, give them a free check, and they will not vote by intellect but in a self serving way. That is, elect someone who will give them more free stuff by taking it away from someone who earns it.

  36. This stupidity can also apply to those currently in office too. I'm tired of bills and regulations being "outsourced" to political hacks that are not accountable to the american people.

  37. You're right. I want to scream when I hear people describing someone as LOOKING presidential. What? Some people are saying their going to vote for Romney because he looks nice. Wow, the last president was elected because he looked cool stepping down from a plane, had a "swagga", oh, and most obvious…he is black. Does that ever confirm what these professors said…big time

  38. I identify with the Tea Party and of course academia. I'm so sorry to say this, but there's much more truth than error to this conclusion. And with the demographic changes we are seeing in the United States, this will all the more true in the future.

  39. ticketintexas says:

    I too have long advocated a test to vote. Just look at the Obama ads proclaming "vote for me because I'm black." I would estimate we would lose 50% or more on your simple test.

  40. WD Shaneyfelt says:

    I'm glad that our Constitution does not provide us with a Democracy even if our Republic does have what many have decided might require a recent upgrade attempt.

  41. wordwrangler says:

    Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. Thomas Jefferson (Of the voting population, how many are well-informed?)

    I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. Thomas Franklin (The waste started quite some time ago.)

    When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Benjamin Franklin (The takers now outnumber the makers.)

    The founders knew what they were doing. They also had extraordinary foresight. They knew exactly what was going to happen in the republic that relies on our being able to keep it. (Franklin)

  42. Not-a-RINO says:

    LOL! Many of those who vote for Obama because he's black probably have voted for candidates in the past because he/she was "cool", "cute" and/or was told to by a liberal teacher or union official.

    I have often told people I am waiting for the day when I can pick up a major publication with a headline on it that reads, "The U.S. Bureau of Statistics Has Determined There Is A Shortage Of Idiots This Year". Something tells me we probably won't ever see anything like that in our lifetimes. Heck, even the quality of stupidity has gone up over the years.

  43. The Founding Fathers recognized that the people needed to be educated in order to to be able to keep their new free government from failing. The elites also know this…which is why the NEA has been dumbing down our children for the past 30 years; changing the history books to keep them from the truth.
    The professors may be right. Just watch some reality cop shows to see how stupid some of our fellow Americans are.
    What we need to be focusing on is to disband the NEA and go back to the Founding Father's principles of teaching our children the basics: reading, arithmetic, natural sciences and history.

  44. John Stewart says:

    When the nominees become transparently inept are we supposed to believe that makes "we the people" to stupid to elect one of them? It seems to me that the ones vying for an office need a lot more common sense and a lot less ignorance.
    Don't treat us like garbage, it doesn't work well.

  45. I do agree the American people cast an ignorant vote in 2008. They voted for a man campaigning on hope and change but failed to ask hope for what and change to what. I hope this mistake doesn't happen again.

  46. Scott Todd says:

    And a decent educational system!

  47. dehner1cat says:

    I see ‘dumb’ people
    there everywhere ‘
    they walk around just like everybody else
    they don’t even know they’re dumb.
    they see & hear what they want to see & hear
    and some of them………
    they’re RUNNING things.

  48. We are not a democracy. We are a republic. There are differences. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_difference_

  49. Based on the ACTUAL RESULTS of elections and the unimaginable number of regulations established by elected and unelected Liberasts (the spelling is intentional) and other officials and the (now seemingly unstoppable) process of moral and economical corrosion of the country, Americans – who HAVE ACTUALLY ALLOWED all this – are really either not smart or suicidal.
    The only difference between me and those two liberal “professors” is that they condemn Conservative Americans while I condemn Liberal Americans for allowing Dems to destroy our country.

  50. I think our current government more than proves the point the professors are making. The majority of voters are stupid or they would not have selected a Muslim for our President while we were fighting a war against Muslims.

  51. Maybe you should learn the difference between "to" and "too" before you call the professors stupid. Saying we are a Republic but have a Democratic form of government also indicates you are confused. You are not the only one. Very few people know the difference. Article IV of our Constitution guarantees to every state a Republican form of government but most states are now Democratic and we have been sold the idea that it is better that way. In a Republican form of government voting would be restricted to those who demonstrate higher intelligence either by passing a test or completing a certain level of training. When our country was founded, most states (colonies) only allowed landowners a vote. If reinstituted that might save the USA.

  52. I have seen nothing in the news about sheriff Arpaio's report that the birth certificate Obama released last year is fake. One would expect that to be a major headline event. Also we in California were never informed that any teenager that asks can receive 10 condoms a month mailed to them by our bankrupt state. If they want to avoid their parents, they can pick up their condoms at any planned parenthood office. California is not only bankrupt financially but also morally.

  53. Yah, Vo "Cleaner". You have now proven your own stupidity and illiteracy. I doubt you've ever read O'Reilly, Limbaugh, and the rest.

  54. It is a good thing we do NOT live in a Democracy but a Representative republic…


  55. Paul Trombley says:

    How many Americans are smart enough to figure out that a democratic government cannot be established democratically? C'mon, let's think it through: If you want to hold a vote about whether or not to establish a government, first you must have what? A democratic government to sanction the vote, to stipulate the choices, to circumscribe a territory over which the results will be imposed, and so on.

    It matters not a jot if you limit suffrage to an elite. There is no way around the problem.

    Hence the word, "republic".

  56. SEAN MURRY says:

    Those two professors are full of crap.

  57. Kevin Beck says:

    These two professors are too stupid to recognize that America as founded is a Republic, not a Democracy.