One common theme whenever the voting public are asked about the on-going Brexit process is that they were mislead during the campaign and are now desperate for basic information. They seem fully aware of their own ignorance on the subject.

Yet, when asked for opinions on Brexit, they have many strong feelings.

The recent BBC programme is a great example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xyjcm

"For the build up going to Brexit, on both sides we were told different things... How do we know what's going to happen?"

"They tampered with the figures."

"No one actually seems to know what is gonna happen. Or what the outcome's going to be."

"I just thought it was a straight out. You know. Goodbye."

"Who are going to be the winners and who are going to be the losers out of this? No-one knows!"

Why do people who clearly know that they know almost nothing have strong opinions on political matters? Why don't they just say "I don't know" or "I was lied to", why insist on making bold statements and casting a vote?

  • 1
    You haven't established either that people are knowingly ignorant or that they have strong opinions much less both together.
    – Brythan
    Mar 29, 2018 at 13:21
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    No, I am not going to watch the video. If you think it demonstrates something, then quote it here. In their words, not your summary.
    – Brythan
    Mar 29, 2018 at 13:51
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    I was thinking about making it more specific to Brexit, as a kind of case study of how this sort of manipulation works. I'm reminded of Gove's famous "people have had enough of experts", except that clearly they haven't because they are crying out for information and clarity, but at the same time seem to have taken on-board his message that their own ignorant opinions are somehow more important than expert ones.
    – user
    Mar 29, 2018 at 14:39
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    This might be better at one of the study of mind sites, philosophy.se or psychology.se. It certainly effects governments, but the cause isn't politics.
    – user9389
    Mar 29, 2018 at 15:41
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    I don't think there is a contradiction here at all. Britons expressed their opinion on whether or not they wanted to remain in the EU, which really doesn't require any specific knowledge. Now they're asking about the process of leaving, which is apparently quite complicated.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 29, 2018 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


A possible explanation is the Dunning-Kruger effect coupled with the fact that most people have trouble changing their beliefs once they form.

Essentially, the Dunning-Kruger effect states that as a person's competence in a subject increases at some rate, their confidence grows at a much faster rate, leading them to overestimate their knowledge and ability. Eventually, they reach a point where they realize they are very overconfident, leading to a sharp decline in confidence and an underestimation of their knowledge and ability.

In short: a sharp increase of basic knowledge leads people to form strong beliefs and overestimate their knowledge. A continuing increase in knowledge shows them how little they actually know, but it is not a strong enough realization for them to change their beliefs.

Relating this to Brexit: before the events leading to deciding on a vote, many people would have lacked strong opinions since they had no good reason to think about the process of leaving the EU. As the chance of a vote happening became realistic, knowledgeable groups supporting one side or the other started spreading their message. These messages had to be relatively simple in order to appeal to the common voter, and any person with little prior opinion saw a sharp increase in their basic knowledge as a result.

Because of the Dunning-Kruger effect, these people quickly overestimated their knowledge, and felt that they learned enough to know that any opinions they formed on the subject were correct, leading them to vote in support of their beliefs. However, as the years went on and the complexity and ramifications of leaving the EU became apparent, voters who thought they knew a lot realized how little they knew. However, their beliefs are now set, and most people are unwilling to go through the effort of changing a belief.


Because in a Democracy even ignorance is a legitimate basis for expressing a preference. It's not a legitimate basis for expressing an opinion, but voting is not exactly an opinion. Voting is a decision on a choice of action. And since action will be decided on, one way or another, being uninformed is not enough to convince anyone to surrender control of actions which will effect them.

  • 1
    This is why democracy is an evil scourge that must be eliminated. It's better than monarchy, but still terrible.
    – Chloe
    Mar 29, 2018 at 17:59
  • @Chloe, you operate under the assumption that full turth is knowable. Given that a human brain cannot hold more than 7 concepts at the same time (it goes as high as 9 for super geniuses), it is almost impossible to address all cocerns of any decision with an expert opinion. When a decision, that needs to be made, has broad implications on large parts of a society, the overall priorities of a society can only be reflected in a vote (even if some of those priorities are not identified by experts).
    – grovkin
    Mar 29, 2018 at 18:32
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    I agree with @Chloe. Democracy is the worst form of government except for all other forms of government ;)
    – bvoyelr
    Jul 19, 2018 at 17:50

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