Informing the Informed: How Content Preferences Limit the Impact of Voting Aids

42 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2016

See all articles by Jonathan Mummolo

Jonathan Mummolo

Princeton University

Erik Peterson

Texas A&M University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 8, 2016

Abstract

Voters are often uninformed about the political candidates they choose between. Governments, media outlets and civic organizations devote substantial resources to correcting these knowledge deficits by creating tools to provide candidate information to voters. Despite the widespread production of these aids, it remains unclear who they reach. We collect validated measures of online voter guide use for over 40,000 newspaper readers during a state primary election. We show these guides are primarily used by individuals with high levels of political interest and knowledge, a finding in contrast to earlier hypotheses that providing these guides directly to voters online would reduce disparities in use based on political interest. A field experiment promoting voter guides failed to diminish these consumption gaps. These results show that the same content preferences that contribute to an unequal distribution of political knowledge also impede the effectiveness of subsequent efforts to close knowledge gaps.

Keywords: media consumption, field experiments, newspapers, voting aids

Suggested Citation

Mummolo, Jonathan and Peterson, Erik, Informing the Informed: How Content Preferences Limit the Impact of Voting Aids (February 8, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2739229 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2739229

Jonathan Mummolo (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Erik Peterson

Texas A&M University - Department of Political Science ( email )

College Station, TX 77843-4353
United States

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