Are you a political elite?

John Zaller in his 1992 book The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion looks at what makes a person a political elite. I really liked this paragraph. See if it describes you!

Although most Americans are, to use Down’s (1957) apt phrase, rationally ignorant about politics, they differ greatly in the degree of their ignorance. There is a small but important minority of the public that pays great attention to politics and is well informed about it. Members of this minority can recognize important US senators on sight, accurately recount each day’s leading news stories, and keep track of the major events in Washington and other world capitals. They are, thus, heavily exposed to elite discourse about politics.

This pretty much describes every 20 to 30-something at bars in DC. But just because a person pays attention doesn’t mean they are part of the political elite. Political elite shape the policy whether or not they pay attention. We hope they do, but this isn’t a necessary condition for the elites to shape our viewpoint of politics and in turn drive political decision making.


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