USA Today: Somin on Widespread Voter Ignorance

In an opinion piece in USA Today, Professor Ilya Somin discusses voter ignorance in the 2016 presidential race.

 Professor Ilya Somin
Professor Ilya Somin


The problem is not that voters are stupid, or that accurate information is unavailable. Rather, for most voters, political ignorance is actually rational. No matter how well-informed you are, the probability that your vote will change the outcome of an election is tiny — only one in 60 million in a presidential election. Few Americans know the exact odds. But most have an intuitive sense that there is little payoff to carefully studying political issues. Quite rationally, they act accordingly. That behavior, however, leaves them vulnerable to Trump and others who seek to manipulate ignorance for political gain.

Despite his current lead in the polls, Trump probably won’t win the GOP nomination, much less the presidency. But even when his star fades, the political ignorance that fueled his rise will remain, ripe for exploitation by other candidates and interest groups. That, far more than his crude rhetoric, is the truly frightening reality revealed by The Donald.

Column: Trump exploits rational political ignorance, USA Today, October 5, 2015. By Ilya Somin.

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