Ever since democracy has been established throughout the world, people are given a voice. They have now the right to say their opinion on any issue affecting them, one way or another. Unfortunately, they not only develop opinions based on efficient knowledge, but also express what they believe even if they are not so highly knowledgeable on a matter. For example, they vote for someone to speak out for them, without really knowing much about politics and what the person they have chosen to vote truly stands for. In-depth analysis of why citizens vote who they vote lacks, and people vote for many reasons, but the one that comes from being fully informed. The reasons behind this attitude are about to be thoroughly analysed in this paper. One thing is for sure, though; democracy is threatened by political ignorance, which is a notion that will be further analysed too.
- Why people develop opinions with low-information levels?
It is commonly known that levels of information about politics are rather low nowadays, mainly because it is difficult to effectively inform citizens in mass society . Other than that, there is an underlying concept that social scientists call “rational ignorance”, according to which citizens think that their opinion does not really matter and it will most likely not make any difference to the world, hence they don’t mind diving into deep and get informed about politics and policy . In other words, a rational voter “has little incentive to gain more knowledge about politics,” because they believe their vote will most likely not affect the outcome, and also gaining more knowledge offers few benefits and substantial costs . It becomes obvious that part of society decides to deliberately not get involved in any process that would get them more information about a certain issue they have chosen, like politics; yet, they still have their own opinions on the matter they chose not to be fully informed about.
Another reason behind citizens’ stance to develop opinions with low levels of information could be based on what the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann had called the “spiral of silence”. In spiral of silence, one opinion becomes dominate and others that do not have the same opinion, or that they feel their opinion comprises the minority of opinions, simply chose to withdraw from expressing their viewpoint, and of course from wanting to be fully informed on an issue. Out of fear of social isolation, they chose to go with the flow and seemingly accept the prevailing concept. To them, trying to get informed even further seems pointless, but if they are asked, they will adopt the prevailing worldview and present it as their own.
Undoubtedly, public policy cannot be controlled by voters with inadequate knowledge. They need to be informed to support the institution of democracy at its fullest . If a voter does not have high knowledge on matters affecting them, then their will cannot be fully reflected by the government, so, the majority’s interest is not served right . People can also lack adequate knowledge, due to the elites’ manipulation that want to pass on policies that best serve their own interests, rather than the public’s.
When people discuss politics, they usually do so with people they think alike with. They bear the same background and social status. If an individual is acquainted with someone with extremely opposite political viewpoints, they prefer to back out of engaging in a political conversation that will probably end in a dispute, and chose to talk about neutral subject that will not raise steam. Of course, this attitude towards things does not allow citizens to get more information on a political matter from discussing with people who disagree with their opinions. Participating in a conversation of that kind would require much effort to go past the boundaries of political disagreement, which is why people tend to simply avoid any communication with people whose worldviews they do not agree with.
What is more, the enormous size of modern government has put another obstacle to voters and people that want to be adequately informed about their government’s operations, so, informed control over policies is distant .
- How having inadequately informed citizens affects democracy?
It makes sense that an uninformed public is much easily manipulated, compared to one that has opinions after having extended searched for information. People with low information levels and no particular idea of the broader context, are usually more drawn into top of the head impressive opinions, plus they are easily persuasive . Moreover, inadequately informed individuals are more prone to fall for misinformation and misleading information, or been prayed by those that want “to ‘prime’ one aspect of a policy, making that dimension so salient that it overwhelms other considerations. In effect a candidate or policy advocate changes” . Research has also shown that when voters have limited political knowledge, especially if it is combined with low levels of economic development, democracy suffers and delivers worse politicians to govern and represent public views .
Politicians, on the other hand, can in fact respond differently when they are dealing with well-informed citizens. Bobnis and Fuertes (2009) that have researched how politicians react to better informed voters have concluded that the former may change how they engage in corruption, if not completely withdraw from such behavior .
Lack of information can lead to making bad decisions. Decisions that affect the lives of those involved. Societies that have developed and evolved in time managed to succeed it by knowing where the road leads, and have chosen to walk with their eyes unfolded. In modern societies, people tend to withdraw from acquiring high levels of information for various reasons, including fear of becoming socially isolated if they develop opinions that come crashing with the prevailing one and tend to not even look any deeper if the prevailing one is the one that represents them too. Also, they do not feel strongly about the fact that their opinion matters or will make a significant change to the world, and for that reason they settle with the little information they have. In other words, they find no reason to gain more information. As a result, they become electorates of people that do not fully reflect public view, which damages democracy and opens those doors to manipulation and corruption. No matter how one sees it, societies that are formed of uninformed citizens are most likely to fall apart in governance, which is why people should be adequately informed on everything that matters to them and is happening around them.
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