Somin Work Cited in Chicago Tribune

An article on voters' lack of knowledge appearing in the Chicago Tribune cites comments made by Professor Ilya Somin in a book he is currently writing entitled Democracy and Political Ignorance.

The article's premise is that efforts to inform voters do not work unless voters have an incentive to learn, and it maintains that ignorance is a rational response since well-informed voters have virtually no chance of changing the outcome of an election. 

"Political knowledge levels have risen little if at all over the last several decades, despite major increases in education and the availability of information," Somin says. "Demand for information, not supply, is the main constraint on political learning in a world where most people are rationally ignorant about politics."

Mixing ignorance and democracy, Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2012. By Steve Chapman.

"Even an ill-informed electoracte will fare better if it has a role in choosing its leaders—just as patients gain from being allowed to choose their doctors, despite not having been to medical school.

"Can widespread political ignorance be cured? Probably not—though as Somin argues, we can minimize its effects through simple, transparent institutions and decentralized power, which reduce the amounts of knowledge voters need. But however serious the flaws of popular government, we really have no alternative."

Read the article