I see dead people (but not racists)

Many voters are reality invariant, they say things about who they are rather than the world they live in.

In the US, more whites believe they have touched a ghost than believe blacks are discriminated against a lot. I would consider this a good example of people being reality invariant. Needless to say there’s ample evidence of racism, and little of ghosts, but note that these beliefs are treated differently.

Reality invariant voters are sometimes paid attention to, and sometimes not. It’s not enough to blame policy errors on politicians pandering to the reality invariant. When and where they’re tolerated or ignored tells us a lot too.

One reason there are racist policing policies is that white voters in America don’t realise they exist or pretend they don’t. But there are no ghost friendly policies to the same degree despite comparable levels of reality invariance.

Some of this is because the fish is the last to know the water. Many Americans have swam in racism so long they don’t see it. Another is that there is no institutional outlet for supporting ghost based policies unlike those for racism.

I think the idea of a reality invariant electorate is important, but it’s not nearly a complete theory, as the above example shows. History, path dependence and institutional capability and development all play a role in whether these reality invariant voters are catered to or not.




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