Popular notions of democracy assume that citizens have policy preferences that can and should be reflected in public policy. Elections provide citizens with the opportunity to select representatives with whom they agree, and opinion polls track the mood of the public, providing additional information for those who are elected. This system thus demands quite a lot on the part of the citizens, who are ultimately supposed to be in charge. If the average citizen were completely uninformed and uninterested in politics and public policy, a fundamental condition for democracy as a form of government would appear to be missing. Justifying the privileged status of public opinion as a guide for public policy would indeed be hard under such circumstances.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in The Routledge Handbook of Elections, Voting Behaviorand Public Opinion, Sep 2017, available online: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315712390