The myth of the informed democratic voter is itself an example of long-ingrained, stubborn anti-knowledge. In their brilliant new Democracy for Realists (Princeton University Press), the political scientists Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels explain that laypeople and experts alike have developed a “folk theory” holding that American democracy is built on an engaged electorate that casts its votes for rational policy reasons. Unfortunately, as Achen and Bartels demonstrate, decades of research have shredded this theory, stomped on it, and set the remains on fire.
DBx: I would change, in this quotation, only the word “Unfortunately.” Perhaps the reality that Achen and Bartels describe is unfortunate, but perhaps it isn’t. If you wish to better understand my genuine uncertainty about this matter, consult my colleague Bryan Caplan’s indispensable book, The Myth of the Rational Voter.