This is my column this week in the New Zealand Herald, which is published in the digital edition every Thursday…
A certain Bulgarian-Maori friend of mine has some wisdom he trots out when people ignore evidence: “Don’t confuse me with the facts”. Psychologists call it “confirmation bias”.
Either way, odds are you’re voting for the wrong party. How do you decide who to vote for? Policy; personality; team loyalty; favourite colour?
As elections are increasingly treated like sports events – with winning and losing teams – we can get locked into ideas of loyalty and habit. We vote for who we like, for what feels right, for our team.
But increasingly, under a Mixed Member Proportional system, there is a wider and wider range of options on the menu. Increasingly too, all views and values can be represented one way or another.
We all have our biases and blind spots: We all have a tendency to see the world the way we wish to see it. We interpret the information we hear and see every day to confirm what we believe about the world, to ratify our own world view. Whether that’s seeing poverty as “individual choice” or believing that climate change is a “hoax”.
Talk to any political campaigner and they will tell you how hard it is to change a person’s mind about how they see the world – even when it is patently, factually, incorrect.
This is what people mean when they talk about a “post-truth” world. That we are exposed to – and able to access – so much information it’s possible to find confirming points of view for pretty much anything you may believe to be true.
You no longer need to be confused by the facts. You can just pick the set of alternative facts that suit you.
However, I’ve been challenging people I know to confuse themselves. There are a number of great political questionnaires that have been set up for this election that enable you to see which parties your values and beliefs actually line up with.
All ask you a bunch of questions then rank the various political parties in terms of how much your beliefs line up with their policies, in terms of a percentage.
So why not challenge yourself, do all three and compare the results. Don’t vote blindly. Don’t let your own human fallibility blind you. Allow yourself to be lead by your own values.
And whatever you do, however you do it, please vote this Saturday.
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