What Do You Know? Comparing Political and Consumer Knowledge

30 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2009 Last revised: 12 Sep 2010

See all articles by Craig M. Burnett

Craig M. Burnett

Hofstra University

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University

Date Written: September 7, 2010

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Burnett, Craig M. and McCubbins, Mathew D., What Do You Know? Comparing Political and Consumer Knowledge (September 7, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1493533 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1493533

Craig M. Burnett (Contact Author)

Hofstra University ( email )

Hempstead, NY 11549
United States

HOME PAGE: http://people.hofstra.edu/craig_burnett

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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