The Simple Art of Voting: The Cognitive Shortcuts of Italian Voters

Delia Baldassarri

    Research output: Book/ReportBook


    Voting distills a complex decision into a deceptively simple action. The electorate faces a messy tangle of parties, leaders, and issues. How is it possible for voters to unravel it all? How do they perceive the political landscape? How, in short, do voters choose? Not only is voting a complex choice, but voters themselves also vary widely in their degree of interest, and involvement in politics. This book provides a new understanding of how voting works by focusing on how choices are made given the cognitive limitations of the human mind and the environment in which decision making takes place. Drawing on recent advances in the study of cognitive psychology, decision making, and political cognition, this book provides a careful empirical examination of the strategies voters actually use to manage the complexity of political choice. Expressly rejecting the prevailing one-size-fits-all, "what a rational voter should do" approach, it distinguishes voters based on the cognitive shortcuts, or heuristics, they use to simplify the decision-making process. Drawing on survey data from the 1990s Italian national general elections, the book identifies four types of voters, classified by how they perceive and organize the political debate-from those who capably rely on nuanced ideological categories to those who, skeptical about all-things-political, prove easy prey for television broadcasters. The typology allows us to grasp the actual differences in political sophistication among citizens and to understand which factors are most important to different types of voters. The book helps us make sense of the various ways in which citizens themselves make sense of-and make "simple"-the complex world of politics.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    PublisherOxford University Press
    Number of pages288
    ISBN (Electronic)9780199979783
    ISBN (Print)9780199828241
    StatePublished - Jan 24 2013


    • Cognitive heuristics
    • Human decision making
    • Ideological voter
    • Italian politics
    • Political disaffection
    • Political sophistication
    • Public opinion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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