Are Knowledgeable Voters Better Voters?

Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 21 (1):29-54 (2022)
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Abstract

It is widely believed that democracies require knowledgeable citizens to function well. But the most politically knowledgeable individuals also tend to be the most partisan, and the strength of partisan identity tends to corrupt political thinking. This creates a conundrum. On the one hand, an informed citizenry is allegedly necessary for a democracy to flourish. On the other hand, the most knowledgeable and passionate voters are also the most likely to think in corrupted, biased ways. What to do? This paper examines this tension and draws out several lessons. First, it is not obvious that more knowledgeable voters will make better political decisions. Second, attempts to remedy voter ignorance are problematic because partisans tend to become more polarized when they acquire more information. Third, solutions to citizen incompetence must focus on the intellectual virtue of objectivity. Fourth, some forms of epistocracy are troubling, in part, because they would increase the political power of the most dogmatic and biased individuals. Fifth, a highly restrictive form of epistocracy may escape the problem of political dogmatism, but epistocrats may face a steeper tradeoff between inclusivity and epistemic virtue than many would like.

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Michael Hannon
Nottingham University

Citations of this work

The Politics of Post-Truth.Michael Hannon - 2023 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 35 (1):40-62.
Is Epistocracy Irrational?Adam F. Gibbons - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 21 (2).
The Epistemic Significance of Social Pressure.Hrishikesh Joshi - 2022 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 52 (4):396-410.
Finding the Epistocrats.Brian Kogelmann - 2023 - Episteme 20 (2):497-512.
On Epistocracy's Epistemic Problem: Reply to Méndez.Adam F. Gibbons - 2022 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8):1-7.

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References found in this work

The Enigma of Reason.Dan Sperber & Hugo Mercier (eds.) - 2017 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Against Democracy: New Preface.Jason Brennan - 2016 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Against method.Paul Feyerabend - 1975 - London: New Left Books.
Against Democracy: New Preface.Jason Brennan - 2016 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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