A&B, both social scientists, have found that most American's vision of what democracy is has little to do with the reality of democracy. Instead of ideology and logic defining voter's political beliefs, party affiliation and voting preferences, the evidence points instead to people's social identities. Due to their misunderstanding, frustrated voters try to “fix” certain aspects of democracy by, e.g., imposing term limits or resorting to state level ballot measures. Analysis of the data suggests that those measures mostly backfire and tend to shift power from voters to special interests. The key lesson this book has to teach is that fixing democracy requires understanding it first.
The folk theory of democracy
A&B observe that our flawed perception of democracy led to failed remedies to reform it. Such fixes, including term limits and state level ballot initiatives, often undercut what people want from their democracy. Instead of acting to make democracy fit the theory, “more democracy” fixes that voters keep trying usually shift power to organized special interests. That outcome is precisely what voters did not want.
Why understanding democracy is critical