What Do You Know? Comparing Political and Consumer Knowledge
Craig M. Burnett
Appalachian State University
Mathew D. McCubbins
University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law and the Department of Political Science
September 7, 2010
Survey research shows that voters know embarrassingly little about politics. Some scholars believe this finding demonstrates that representative democracy does not work. Others argue that voters do not need much information to make political decisions. Neither strand of research provides a baseline for evaluating political knowledge. We seek to establish a baseline by putting political knowledge into broader context. We do so by asking the following: How does voters’ knowledge about politics compare to their knowledge about things with which they have far more immediate, frequent, and intimate encounters? Our presumption is they should know more about everyday consumer and investment products than they do about politics where their own choices are far removed from outcomes in time and space. Using a unique survey, we show that voters actually knew at least as much about politics as they knew about everyday consumer products.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
Keywords: political behavior, voter competence, political knowledge, consumer knowledgeworking papers series
Date posted: October 25, 2009 ; Last revised: September 12, 2010
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