We thank the following people for helpful comments and assistance: Scott Althaus, John Benson, Bob Blendon, Jake Bowers, Jamie Druckman, Tobin Grant, Bill Jacoby, Jim Kuklinski, Scott McClurg, Bob Luskin, Steve Nicholson, Skip Lupia, Jeff Mondak, Markus Prior, Paul Quirk, Jas Sekhon, and participants in workshops at the University of Connecticut, Harvard University, and Northwestern University. The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research provided the survey data used in these analyses.
Citizens, Knowledge, and the Information Environment
Article first published online: 29 MAR 2006
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 50, Issue 2, pages 266–282, April 2006
How to Cite
Jerit, J., Barabas, J. and Bolsen, T. (2006), Citizens, Knowledge, and the Information Environment. American Journal of Political Science, 50: 266–282. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00183.x
- Issue published online: 29 MAR 2006
- Article first published online: 29 MAR 2006
In a democracy, knowledge is power. Research explaining the determinants of knowledge focuses on unchanging demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. This study combines data on the public's knowledge of nearly 50 political issues with media coverage of those topics. In a two-part analysis, we demonstrate how education, the strongest and most consistent predictor of political knowledge, has a more nuanced connection to learning than is commonly recognized. Sometimes education is positively related to knowledge. In other instances its effect is negligible. A substantial part of the variation in the education-knowledge relationship is due to the amount of information available in the mass media. This study is among the first to distinguish the short-term, aggregate-level influences on political knowledge from the largely static individual-level predictors and to empirically demonstrate the importance of the information environment.