Uninformed Votes? Reappraising Information Effects
and Presidential Preferences
Douglas R. Pierce
Published online: 28 June 2014
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Previous work on information effects and preferences has used the
technique of statistical imputation to estimate the impact of political ignorance on
presidential preferences, suggesting that the electorate would vote differently if
more informed. In this paper, I challenge that assertion by disputing the extent to
which the changes in preferences generated by imputation are interpretable as
information effects. Using data from the 1992–2008 National Election Surveys, I
show that the changes in preferences resulting from imputation fail to support a
number of hypothesized relationships between political knowledge and preferences.
I suggest that the resulting shifts in preferences are most likely attributable to the
psychological traits of the more informed rather than to information itself.
Keywords Political knowledge Á Voting Á Preferences Á Public opinion
There is little doubt that the political behavior of well-informed citizens differs in a
variety of signiﬁcant ways from that of the less politically engaged. Political
sophisticates have been found to process political information more efﬁciently
(Fiske et al. 1990), learn more from the news (Rhee and Cappella 1997), engage in
higher levels of policy voting (Goren 1997), think in more ideological terms (Hamill
et al. 1985), hold more stable opinions (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996), show more
consistency between their professed policy attitudes and vote choices (Lau et al.
2008), be less susceptible to framing effects (Kinder and Sanders 1990), and express
more opinions during surveys (Krosnick and Milburn 1990). Unfortunately, political
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11109-014-9281-5)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
D. R. Pierce (&)
Department of Political Science, Rutgers University, 89 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901,
Polit Behav (2015) 37:537–565