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.
The American electorate does not have adequate knowledge for voters to control public policy. Scholars have long documented the limits of voter knowledge about the institutions and policies of the government. That ignorance is not a moral failing. The rational voter has little incentive to gain more knowledge about politics because his or her vote is unlikely to affect the outcome. Since gaining more knowledge offers few benefits and substantial costs, the average citizen remains ignorant, though rationally so. Some scholars have argued that citizens use "shortcuts" to gain enough knowledge to participate in self-government. The evidence does not support the "shortcut" argument.