Financial support for this project was provided by the Center on Congress at Indiana University and by the LeRoy Collins Fund at Florida State University. A previous version of this article was presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association and at a symposium at the University of Illinois. In addition to the participants at those sessions, we wish to thank Christopher Lewis and Damarys Canache for their helpful comments. We also thank John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse for providing us with access to the data used in Table 6.
Does Familiarity Breed Contempt? The Impact of Information on Mass Attitudes toward Congress
Version of Record online: 4 JAN 2007
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 51, Issue 1, pages 34–48, January 2007
How to Cite
Mondak, J. J., Carmines, E. G., Huckfeldt, R., Mitchell, D.-G. and Schraufnagel, S. (2007), Does Familiarity Breed Contempt? The Impact of Information on Mass Attitudes toward Congress. American Journal of Political Science, 51: 34–48. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00235.x
- Issue online: 4 JAN 2007
- Version of Record online: 4 JAN 2007
Two features of citizen response to Congress can be taken as grounds for concern. First, Americans know relatively little about Congress, and especially about congressional procedures and policy output. Second, Congress typically emerges as the least respected political institution. Although these matters are troubling when viewed individually, more disturbing is the dilemma posed when knowledge and attitudes toward Congress are viewed in tandem. It appears that citizens who know Congress the best like Congress the least. Consequently, a sophisticated polity and a well-respected legislature seem fundamentally incompatible. This article seeks to resolve this dilemma, contending that there is nothing about knowledge per se that leads citizens to view Congress unfavorably. Rather, differences in knowledge levels alter the considerations citizens bring to bear when evaluating Congress, with the best-informed individuals constructing judgments on the basis of the most relevant Congress-specific criteria while less knowledgeable citizens employ readily available but more peripheral criteria.