Right as polls were closing in the United Kingdom last night, Google Trends reported a massive spike in British people asking "what happens if we leave the EU?"
+250% spike in "what happens if we leave the EU" in the past hourhttps://t.co/9b1d6Bsx6D— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) June 24, 2016
This is the kind of question one might think people would want to look up before voting on whether or not to leave the EU, since the answer is pretty relevant.
By the same token, it was only after referendum results were in that UK Googlers got obsessed with asking what the EU actually is:
This is a reminder, I think, that while political democracy is the best system of government, it is normally implemented through the idea of accountable representatives.
The idea is that people elect some people who they trust to represent their interests. Those representatives are supposed to do the difficult work of understanding policy issues and making choices about them. If the representatives are seen as doing a bad job, they can be turned out in favor of other people who will also be focused on understanding political and policy issues as a full-time job.
What we got in the UK was something else — directly asking everyday people to weigh in on a complicated and technical question that they probably hadn’t studied much and where, even though the collective stakes are high, there is no clear incentive to personally get the answer right.