Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Aaron Blake at The Fix gets it right: Large majorities of Americans support raising the minimum wage, but that won't determine their vote. Blake gets it right for the wrong reason, however. He leans on a Quinnipiac poll that asks voters whether their attitudes toward issues would be related to their voting.

Ignore those polls!

If there’s one thing certain about public policy issues, public opinion and vote choice, it’s that we don't know why we vote the way we do. Never mind how something that we hear about today (because we happened to get asked a question about it from a pollster) will affect our vote choices months from now.

People will answer poll questions, but the answers have nothing to do with their decision on Election Day.

For starters -- and this is why Blake is correct that minimum wage won't matter much -- we tend to overstate almost every influence on our vote choice (candidates, issues, campaigns) and we underestimate the most important influence: party identification. Few people will vote based on their position on the minimum wage because most people go into a campaign already committed to Democrats or Republicans. Even if they don't realize it.

Issues may matter on the margins, and it’s possible that an issue will push marginal voters to show up at the polls (though we should be careful, it may be that whatever issue one’s party focuses on will do the trick). But the relationship isn’t straightforward. And just asking people about it won't help us understand.

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net.