My forthcoming Critical Review symposium article on rationality and political ignorance is now available on SSRN here. The paper explains - for the first time - why, for many citizens, it is rational to vote but irrational to acquire more than a very minimal amount of political information. The phenomenon of widespread "rationally ignorant" electoral decisionmaking has a wide range of important implications that scholars have not fully appreciated.
Here's the abstract:
For decades, scholars have recognized that most citizens have little or no political knowledge, and that it is in fact rational for the average voter to make little effort to acquire political information. This article shows that rational ignorance is fully compatible with the so-called "paradox of voting" because it will often be rational for citizens to vote, but irrational for them to become well-informed. Furthermore, rational ignorance leads not only to inadequate acquisition of political information but also to ineffective use of such information as citizens do possess. The combination of these two problems has fundamental implications for a variety of issues in public policy and international affairs, including the desirable size and scope of government, the need for judicial review, the division of power within a federal system, and the conduct of the War on Terror.
For some of my earlier work on related issues, see here. I also wrote this nonacademic analysis of political ignorance for the Cato Institute back in 2004, explaining why "Political Ignorance is No Bliss."