Information Acquisition, Ideology and Turnout:Theory and Evidence from Britain
The amount of political information that voters decide to acquire during anelectoral campaign depends, among other things, on prior ideological beliefsabout parties and/or candidates. Voters that are ex ante indifferent about thecandidates attach little value to information because they perceive thatvoting itself will have little value. Voters that are ex ante very ideologicalalso attach little value to information because they think that the news willhardly change their opinion. Thus, high incentives to be informed can befound at intermediate levels of ideological strength. Moreover, the impact ofincreased political knowledge on turnout is asymmetric: New informationincrease the probability of voting of indifferent voters but decrease that ofvery ideological voters. These results are derived within a decisiontheoretical model of information acquisition and turnout that combines theRiker-Ordeshook (1968) approach to voting behaviour with the Becker(1965) approach to "personal production functions". These predictions arethen tested on survey data from the 1997 British Election Study. Ourempirical findings are compatible with all the results of the theoreticalexercise.
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