How Is A Voter Like A Sports Fan?

Dec 8, 2017

In a previous Perspective we considered the idea — a bad idea — that the American voter is a passive consumer. Now let’s think about another model: the American voter as sports fan.

Political scientists tell us that our voting habits are tribal to a fault.

If you’re a Republican who dislikes the idea of privatizing Social Security but your party’s candidate for President advocates the idea, you won’t switch parties. You’ll change your position on privatizing Social Security. You’ll think, “Well, maybe it’s a good idea after all.” 

The same would be true if you were a Democrat suspicious of a single-payer healthcare system. If your candidate likes the idea, you will, too.

I like particular sports teams. If I don’t like a certain defensive scheme but my Chicago Bears use it, I’ll start to like that scheme and stick with my Bears. I’m not rooting for hated Green Bay.

This is harmless enough when it comes to sports. But it’s brain dead when it comes to politics. Why are we so tribal, anyhow? Maybe we’re overconfident about our democracy. We think it will be OK whether or not we check our tribal heads at the door.

Let us hope this confidence is not misplaced, sports fans.

I’m Tom McBride, and that’s my perspective.