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Principle can be as risky as ignorance

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Woe unto California politicians: They're going to be less popular with their constituents now that the Golden State Warriors have failed to win the NBA championship.

Irrational? Certainly — a United States senator cannot affect the outcome of a National Basketball Association game (at least, not since Bill Bradley retired). But a study published by the National Academy of Sciences a few years ago found that when local football and basketball teams win, voters are more pleased with elected officials — and more likely to vote for them. So maybe the politician with the most to gain from the Warriors' loss is Justin Trudeau.

In any case, the notion of unrelated events affecting voters' judgment squares with other research showing that facts about issues aren't really the basis for citizens' votes — and that citizens often don't know very much, anyway, about the key issues confronting their government.

Consider: Just one American in three can name the three branches of the federal government (legislative, executive, judicial). One-third believe foreign aid is the government's largest expense (it's about 1 percent). Most voters don't know which party controls Congress........

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