Thursday, February 26, 2004


Sad...but fascinating.
Barring a miraculous comeback by Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Kerry will win the Democratic presidential nomination—despite the fact that most Democratic voters know little about him and don't like him very much...

A few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Kerry's campaign seemed dead, but then he unexpectedly won Iowa, then New Hampshire, and then primary after primary. How did this happen?

One answer may be found in a series of psychology experiments conducted at Princeton University in the 1950s...

Asch demonstrated a stunning effect: Faced with a decision that, in isolation, no one would ever get wrong, the unwitting subjects went against the evidence of their own eyes about one-third of the time...

Before any given primary, if all previous votes have resulted in an even split among candidates, then the prospect for independent thinking still exists. But as the sequence of primaries progresses, the likelihood of successive even splits rapidly diminishes, and one candidate inevitably starts to look like a winner. At that moment, the cascade starts, and all subsequent votes then become exercises in rubber stamping.

The reason why this year is so striking is that because Iowa and New Hampshire voted the same way, the onset of the cascade was immediate. And the result is that less than 1 percent of all voters effectively decided that Kerry was to be the Democratic nominee—the rest of us are just tagging along.

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