The Political Consequences of Uninformed Voters
45 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2011 Last revised: 9 Feb 2012
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
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