Voter Ignorance and the Democratic Ideal
Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, V. 12, No. 4, 1998
46 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2017
Date Written: Fall 1998
If voters do not understand the programs of rival candidates or their likely consequences, they cannot rationally exercise control over government. An ignorant electorate cannot achieve true democratic control over public policy. The immense size and scope of modern government makes it virtually impossible for voters to acquire sufficient knowledge to exercise such control. The problem is exacerbated by voters’ strong incentive to be “rationally ignorant” of politics. This danger to democracy cannot readily be circumvented through “shortcut” methods of economizing on information costs. A truly democratic government must, therefore, be strictly limited in scope.
Keywords: Rational ignorance, elections, democracy, voting, information, information shortcuts, miracle of aggregation, polling, political ignorance, Anthony Downs
JEL Classification: D71, D80, H10, H11, H40, H41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation