Abstract

We examine two sources of political inequalities that seem inevitable in elections, supposedly the most egalitarian and most fundamental of modern democratic processes. The first stems from the fact that not everyone is equally likely to vote, and the second from unequal political information levels, which may make some groups of citizens better able than others to express their political preferences in the vote. We use survey data from two economically less advanced new democracies to empirically assess the degree to which inequalities of turnout and political information level may influence election outcomes. Our statistical analysis relies on simulation methods developed by Bartels (1996) and Citrin, Schickler, and Sides (2003). For the first time in the literature, we provide separate estimates of how equally large increases in everyone's knowledge and how a complete equalization of knowledge level across social groups may affect election outcomes. Our results show that election outcomes in Romania and Moldova may be a little different if citizens were much better informed. However, we find no change in the outcomes as a result of an equalization of turnout and information level across social groups. Thus, elections in the two countries aggregate citizen preferences probably imperfectly, but in a definitely egalitarian way.