Should Everyone Vote? "Definitely Not", says Mona Charen

From Mona’s article at Town Hall, based on the recent findings of a CATO Institute study:

“Here they come – the earnest exhortations to get out and vote. You’ll be hearing it from television newscasters, MTV, newspaper ads, radio talk show hosts, weathermen, schoolteachers… you get the idea. Everyone has a duty to vote, they will say.

“No they don’t. If a person is utterly ignorant about matters of public policy, then he or she has a solemn obligation to refrain from voting. The percentage of people who fall into the utterly ignorant category is estimated to be about 25 percent of eligible voters.”

She goes on to point out some of the key statistics from the study:

“Seventy percent of voters apparently were completely unaware of the fact that the federal government adopted a huge prescription drug benefit as part of Medicare during the term of President Bush. Fully 65 percent did not know that the government had passed a ban on partial birth abortions. Some 58 percent acknowledged that they knew little or nothing about the Patriot Act (a figure Somin argues persuasively is probably low-ball). Sixty-one percent thought, incorrectly, that there had been a net job loss in 2004. Only 32 percent were aware that Social Security is one of the two largest expenditure areas in the federal government. Only 25 percent could correctly state that the Bush administration does not believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Only 22 percent knew that the current unemployment rate is lower than the average for the past 30 years.”

This is a must-read, so go do it.

Her article is based on the findings of the study titled “When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: How Political Ignorance Threatens Democracy” by Ilya Somin. Somin is an assistant professor of law at George Mason School of Law. His research interests are constitutional law, property law, and popular political participation and its implications for constitutional democracy.

Here’s a snippet from the Executive Summary:

“Democracy demands an informed electorate. Voters who lack adequate knowledge about politics will find it difficult to control public policy. Inadequate voter knowledge prevents government from reflecting the will of the people in any meaningful way. Such ignorance also raises doubts about democracy as a means of serving the interests of a majority. Voters who lack sufficient knowledge may be manipulated by elites. They may also demand policies that contravene their own interests.”

Use this link to download a PDF version of the full report.

You simply won’t believe how uninformed most people are.

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