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Civic Education, Political Discussion, and the Social Transmission of Democratic Knowledge and Values in a New Democracy: Kenya 2002


  • Previous versions of this article were delivered at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, and at Dartmouth College in 2009. We thank Aaron Abbarno, Scott Althaus, Michael X. Delli Carpini, Muge Finkel, Michael Herron, Kosuke Imai, Kristin Kanthak, George Krause, Dean Lacy, Reynaldo Rojo-Mendoza, William Mishler, the anonymous reviewers, and both the current and previous editor of this journal for helpful comments. Thanks to David Leuthold and Paul Mbatia for their invaluable assistance to the entire research project and to Melissa Baker, Michael Muindi, Joah Mboga, and Jacinta Mulwa from Research International, Kenya for their efforts in the data collection activities. We also are grateful for the support of Roberta Warren and Lynn Carter at Management Systems International; Sheryl Stumbras, formerly of USAID/Kenya; Gary Hansen, former head of the Democracy and Governance Bureau, USAID/Washington; and Harry Blair of Yale University.

Steven E. Finkel is Daniel H. Wallace Professor of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh, 230 S. Bouquet St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260 ( Amy Erica Smith is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, University of Pittsburgh, 230 S. Bouquet St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260 (


How does civic education affect the development of democratic political culture in new democracies? Using a unique three-wave panel data set from Kenya spanning the transitional democratic election of 2002, we posit a two-step process of the social transmission of democratic knowledge, norms, and values. Civic education first affected the knowledge, values, and participatory inclinations of individuals directly exposed to the Kenyan National Civic Education Programme (NCEP). These individuals became opinion leaders, communicating these new orientations to others within their social networks. Individuals who discussed others’ civic education experiences then showed significant growth in democratic knowledge and values, in many instances more than individuals with direct exposure to the program. We find further evidence of a “compensation effect,” such that the impact of civic education and post-civic education discussion was greater among Kenyans with less education and with lower levels of social integration.