What Do You Know? Comparing Political and Consumer Knowledge
30 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2009 Last revised: 12 Sep 2010
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: political behavior, voter competence, political knowledge, consumer knowledge
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