In reality, we voters — all of us — make emotional, intuitive decisions about who we prefer, and then come up with post-hoc rationalizations to explain the choices that were already made beneath conscious awareness. “People often act without knowing why they do what they do,” Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, noted in an e-mail message to me this week. “The fashion of political writing this year is to suggest that people choose their candidate by their stand on the issues, but this strikes me as highly implausible.”
... Each of us has an unconscious but consistent way of construing the world. Some of us light up when we see a candidate being intelligent, others when we see a candidate being friendly or sentimental. This is the mode we use every day to make sense of the world.
My own intuition is that this unconscious cognition is pretty effective. People are skilled at judging character. And through reading, thinking and close observation, they can educate their unconscious to make smarter and finer distinctions.
Bryan Caplan, in The Myth of the Rational Voter, takes pains to debunk the "miracle of aggregation," which is the theory that individual irrationality is overcome by the wisdom of crowds. Brooks gives us what one might call the "miracle of emotional intelligence," in which individual cognitive ignorance is overcome by people's intuitive judge of character. I think that the miracle of emotional intelligence is no less of a wishful-thinking fairy tale than the miracle of aggregation.