Why Are Voters So Uninformed?

Do you know which political party holds the majority in the House of Representatives? How about the largest congressional budget item or the rate of inflation in the United States? Surveys show that fewer than half of respondents knew the answers to these questions in 2010. So why does the public know and care so little about government and politics? The answer is founded in basic incentives. It may take a lot of time and energy to become an informed voter, but there is little chance even the most informed voter can have any effect on the outcome of an election. Based on the lopsided incentives involved, most economists will say it is, in fact, completely rational to be ignorant about politics.

Animation and post-production by Tomasz Kaye: info@redshiftmedia.com


(top photo via DonkeyHotey )

Diana Thomas

Diana Thomas

Assistant Professor of Economics, at Utah State University
Dr. Diana Thomas is an assistant professor of Economics at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. A German native, she earned her Diploma in Business Administration from Fachhochschule Aachen and her BS in Finance from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Her primary fields of research are in the areas of public choice, development economics, and Austrian economics. In her work, Dr. Thomas explores the role political entrepreneurs play in changing the formal and informal rules that govern economic exchange in society.
Diana Thomas


Associate Professor of Economics at Creighton University
@economicinquiry Can't wait for "Campus as a Free Speech Zone or a Safe Space" tomorrow! - 1 year ago
Diana Thomas
Diana Thomas
Diana Thomas

Latest posts by Diana Thomas (see all)

Diana Thomas
Research Journal Articles
“Economic Freedom and the Stability of Stock Prices: A Cross-Country Analysis,” (with Ben Blau and Tyler Brough), forthcoming in the International Journal of Money and Finance.

"What did Economists Do? Euvoluntary, voluntary, and coercive institutions for collective action" (with William F. Shughart II) forthcoming in the Southern Economic Journal.

“Corporate Lobbying, Political Connections, and the Bailout of Banks” (with Ben Blau and Tyler Brough) Journal of Banking and Finance37(8):3007-3017. 2013.

“Rational Irrationality and the Political Process of Repeal: The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform and the 21st amendment,” (with Michael Thomas and Nick Snow), Kyklos, 66(1): 130-152. 2013. 

“Two-Tiered Political Entrepreneurship and the Congressional Committee System,” (with Adam Martin) Public Choice 154 (1-2): 21-37. 2013.

“Entrepreneurship: Catallactic and Constitutional Perspectives,” (with Michael Thomas) The Review of Austrian Economics, forthcoming.

“In and out of the Commons – Extractive Public Entrepreneurship and the Aggie Blue Bikes Program,” (with Ryan Yonk and Steve Young)Journal of Public and Municipal Finance, 1, 2012.

"The Institutional Context of Epistemic Communities: Experts in PT Bauer's work," Advances in Austrian Economics, 17: 81-97, 2012. 

“The Brewer, the Baker, and the Monopoly Maker,” (with Peter Leeson) The Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, 1(1): 84-95, 2011.

“Encouraging a Productive Research Agenda: Peter Boettke and the Devil’s Test,” (with Michael D. Thomas) Journal of Private Enterprise, 26(1):103-115, 2010.

“Bootleggers, Baptists and Political Entrepreneurs: Key Players in the Rational and Morality Play of Regulatory Politics,” (with Randy Simmons and Ryan Yonk) The Independent Review,15(3), 2010.

“Deregulation Despite Transitional Gains – The Brewers Guild of Cologne 1461,” Public Choice,140(3):329-3340, 2009.

Book Chapters
“I’ve Got a Monopoly to Maintain! Market Failure in The Simpsons” in Joshua C. Hall (ed.) Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics, Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming (accepted September 2010).

“How government regulation of child care harms women” in Sharon Presley and Jan Stover (eds.) The Free Woman (accepted July 2011).

Policy Papers
"Antitrust Enforcement in the Obama Administration's First Term: A Regulatory Approach" (with Bill Shughart) Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 739, October 22nd, 2013.

“Regressive Effects of Regulation” Mercatus Center Working Paper No. 12-35, November 2012. 

“Brief-Analyses: Increasing the Supply of affordable Child Care”  National Center for Policy Analysis, November 30th 2011.

“Increasing the Supply of Affordable Child Care” in Roger Koppl (eds.) “Enterprise Programs: Freeing Entrepreneurs to Provide Essential Services for the Poor – A Task Force Report” National Center for Policy Analysis, August 2011. - Winner of the 2012 Templeton Freedom Award in the Category Free Market Solutions to Poverty.

I was recently invited to testify in the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law as an expert witness on my research regarding the regressive effects of regulation. Read my testimony here. Watch my testimony here:

Published Editorials 

“Antitrust busybodies,” (with William F. Shughart) The Washington Times, December 19th, 2013.

“Utah’s declining economic freedom,” (with Randy Simmons) The Salt Lake Tribune,
February 13, 2012.

“Many happy returns,” (with Ben Blau and Tyler Brough) The Salt Lake Tribune,
October 22, 2011.

Working Papers
“Regressive Effects of Regulation,” revise and resubmit.

“Regulatory Rent-Seeking,” (with William F. Shughart II), under review (book chapter).

“Alcohol Prohibition in the Beehive: How the Word of Wisdom Became a Commandment,” working paper.

 “The law of the taxi – private institutions for the protection of property rights among taxi drivers in Trujillo, Peru” (with Michael Clark and Humberto Alba Castillo), working paper.

“The Treason of Rules: Political Entrepreneurship, Representative Government, and Constitutional Constraints” (with Adam Martin), working paper.

“Efficient Regulation?” (with Michael Thomas), working paper.

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