Surveys show that voters in America and other nations are ignorant about public policy issues, how the government functions, and what are the positions of the different candidates.
I think the surveys exaggerate voter ignorance. Voters are more likely to know about important issues than unimportant issues. But how do the people who conduct the surveys know which issues are important? For example, I consider myself well informed about government. But I know little about what the candidates have promised to do if elected. I think that politicians rarely keep their campaign promises, and therefore information about the campaign promises of candidates is unimportant. But a survey about government usually asks about the campaign promises of the candidates, and on such a survey I would appear to be ignorant. The amount of influence possessed by a government official is more important than the title which that government official has. But a survey is more likely to ask about the title.
I think that voter ignorance is real, but less than the surveys suggest. Each voter's vote has little effect, and so each voter has little incentive to seek out information about the candidates. Also, each candidate has an incentive to conceal information about themselves, because people often vote against things instead of for things, and candidates want to avoid giving voters a reason to vote against them. This is why political advertisements often say nothing about the candidate, but give information about the opponent and encourage people to vote against the opponent.
Many people who complain about voter ignorance seem to be suggesting that elected governments are bad. But what alternative is there? I agree that elected governments usually govern badly, but nonelected governments are usually worse. Didn't Winston Churchill say that democracy was the worst form of government, except for all the others?
Voter ignorance will be much less of a problem with competive federalism.
With competitive federalism, people choose which competing government to live under. This choice has more consequences than voting, and so people have a larger incentive to become informed about the choice. Since people will have a greater desire to be informed, competing governments will have a lesser incentive to conceal information.
The best way to achieve competive federalism is through decentralization, and decentralization is likely to reduce voter ignorance. When governments are smaller, each vote counts for more. It is easier for voters to acquire information about government when the government is nearby.
Sometimes voters are ignorant because information does not exist. For example, do minimum wages and rent control help or hurt the poor? Experts disagree. Competitive federalism would allow different competing governments to have different policies, and there would be more opportunities to compare the outcome of one policy with the outcome of another policy. Competitive federalism would result in more information about which policies work and which policies do not work.
Ilya Somin says that competitive federalism would reduce voter ignorance.