What Americans Know about Politics and why it Matters

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Yale University Press, 1996 - History - 397 pages
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This book is the most comprehensive analysis ever written about the American public's factual knowledge of politics. Drawing on extensive survey data, including much that is original, two experts in public opinion and political behavior find that many citizens are remarkably informed about the details of politics, while equally large numbers are nearly ignorant of political facts. And despite dramatic changes in American society and politics, citizens appear no more or less informed today than half a century ago.

Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter demonstrate that informed persons are more likely to participate, better able to discern their own interests, and more likely to advocate those interests through political actions. Who, then, is politically informed? The authors provide compelling evidence that whites, men, and older, financially secure citizens have substantially more knowledge about national politics than do blacks, women, young adults, and financially less- well-off citizens. Thus citizens who are most disadvantaged socially and economically are least able to redress their grievances politically. Yet the authors believe that a broader and more equitably informed populace is possible. The challenge to America, they conclude, lies in providing an environment in which the benefits of being informed are clearer, the tools for gaining information more accessible, and the opportunities to learn about politics more frequent, timely, and equitable.


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What Americans know about politics and why it matters

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The American public's cynical attitude toward politics is much discussed, but what do Americans really know about politics? Two political scientists provide a detailed examination of who knows what ... Read full review


CHAPTER TWO What Americans Know about Politics
CHAPTER THREE Stability and Change in Political Knowledge
CHAPTER FOUR Whos Informed? Individual Group and Collective
CHAPTER FIVE Explaining Political Knowledge
CHAPTER SIX The Consequences of Political Knowledge
CHAPTER SEVEN Informing the Publics Discretion
APPENDIX ONE Overview of Data Sources
APPENDIX THREE Knowledge over Time
APPENDIX FOUR Details of the Structural Analysis Used

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About the author (1996)

Michael X. Delli Carpini is dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Scott Keeter is director of survey research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC.

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