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The Political Consequences of Uninformed Voters

45 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011 Last revised: 9 Feb 2012

Anthony Fowler

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Michele Margolis

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: March 30, 2011


Survey researchers have long known that Americans fail to meet the democratic ideals of an informed electorate. The consequences of this political ignorance, however, are less clear. In two independent settings, we experimentally test the effect of political information on citizens’ attitudes toward the major parties. When uninformed citizens receive political information, they systematically shift their political preferences away from the Republican Party and toward the Democrats. In contrast to the optimistic claims that political ignorance is compensated through other mechanisms, our results suggest that the lack of information in the current American electorate typically produces results that differ from the ideal counterfactual world where all voters are informed.

Keywords: survey experiment, public opinion, electoral bias, political information

Suggested Citation

Fowler, Anthony and Margolis, Michele, The Political Consequences of Uninformed Voters (March 30, 2011). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-12. Available at SSRN: or

Anthony Fowler

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Michele Margolis (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

243 Stiteler Hall
208 S. 37th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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