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A Matter of Fact? Knowledge Effects on the Vote in Swedish General Elections, 1985–2002

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What would have happened in general elections if all voters had more closely approximated the democratic ideal of a ‘fully informed’ voter? Earlier analyses have demonstrated politically consequential effects of political information on American voters’ political preferences. In an effort to expand the validity of these results, the author of this article performed counterfactual analyses of aggregate election outcomes in six Swedish general elections from 1985 to 2002. The analyses show that the aggregated gains for right-wing parties average +2.1 percentage points during the period. In two elections, the outcome would have resulted in a different government majority. The findings challenge a widespread idea that voters’ extensive use of cognitive heuristics can compensate fully for their lack of factual knowledge. This article demonstrates that factual knowledge can indeed have significant effects in places where one would least expect it – in a Northern European multiparty context where voters are renowned for making extensive use of cognitive heuristics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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