Money, Time, and Political Knowledge: Distinguishing Quick Recall and Political Learning Skills

American Journal of Political Science (Impact Factor: 2.76). 12/2007; 52(1):169 - 183. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00306.x


Surveys provide widely cited measures of political knowledge. Do seemingly arbitrary features of survey interviews affect their validity? Our answer comes from experiments embedded in a representative survey of over 1200 Americans. A control group was asked political knowledge questions in a typical survey context. Treatment groups received the questions in altered contexts. One group received a monetary incentive for answering the questions correctly. Another was given extra time. The treatments increase the number of correct answers by 11–24%. Our findings imply that conventional knowledge measures confound respondents' recall of political facts with variation in their motivation to exert effort during survey interviews. Our work also suggests that existing measures fail to capture relevant political search skills and, hence, provide unreliable assessments of what many citizens know when they make political decisions. As a result, existing knowledge measures likely underestimate people's capacities for informed decision making.

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    • "There have been criticisms of the use of factual questions as an indicator of what people know about politics (e.g., Graber 2001), but most of the discussion has focused on issues of measurement. In particular, past work had demonstrated that aspects of the interview context, such as question format, respondent incentives, and survey protocol, have powerful effects on observed levels of knowledge (e.g., Gibson and Caldiera 2009; Miller and Orr 2008; Mondak 2001; Prior and Lupia 2008). These efforts have resulted in valuable insights regarding optimal methods for measuring political knowledge (Boudreau and Lupia 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Political knowledge is a central concept in the study of public opinion and political behavior. Yet what the field collectively believes about this construct is based on dozens of studies using different indicators of knowledge. We identify two theoretically relevant dimensions: a temporal dimension that corresponds to the time when a fact was established and a topical dimension that relates to whether the fact is policy-specific or general. The resulting typology yields four types of knowledge questions. In an analysis of more than 300 knowledge items from late in the first decade of the 2000s, we examine whether classic findings regarding the predictors of knowledge withstand differences across types of questions. In the case of education and the mass media, the mechanisms for becoming informed operate differently across question types. However, differences in the levels of knowledge between men and women are robust, reinforcing the importance of including gender-relevant items in knowledge batteries.
    American Political Science Association 11/2014; 108(04):840-855. DOI:10.1017/S0003055414000392 · 3.05 Impact Factor
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    • "8 To be sure, these measures are not without their problems. Prior and Lupia (2008) demonstrate that conventional knowledge measures often underestimate the degree to which the general public are able to engage in informed decision making, as the typical survey context provides few incentives for respondents to exert much effort to recall the correct response. We have no reason, however, to expect these effects to differ in any systematic way between respondents in initiative and non-initiative states. "
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    ABSTRACT: Current literature often suggests that more information and choices will enhance citizens’ general political knowledge. Notably, some studies indicate that a greater number of state ballot initiatives raise Americans’ knowledge through increases in motivation and supply of political information. By contrast, we contend that political psychology theory and findings indicate that, at best, more ballot measures will have no effect on knowledge. At worst greater use of direct democracy should make it more costly to learn about institutions of representative government and lessen motivation by overwhelming voters with choices. To test this proposition, we develop a new research design and draw upon data more appropriate to assessing the question at hand. We also make use of a propensity score matching algorithm to assess the balance in the data between initiative state and non-initiative state voters. Controlling for a wide variety of variables, we find that there is no empirical relationship between ballot initiatives and political knowledge. These results add to a growing list of findings which cast serious doubt on the educative potential of direct democracy.
    Political Behavior 06/2014; 37(2). DOI:10.1007/s11109-014-9273-5 · 1.63 Impact Factor
    • "First, it has to be remembered that in most contemporary taxonomies of educational outcomes, cognitive outcomes remain indispensable, as they constitute a first layer where all further and more valuable educational outcomes are being built upon (Anderson and Krathwohl 2001; Wolak and McDevitt 2011). Second, we relate to new empirical work, showing that political knowledge does remain a very important resource for citizens: knowledge allows citizens to play a meaningful role in the political process, it allows them to develop and express their political preferences more clearly, and knowledge is associated with a feeling of political empowerment (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996; Milner 2002; Althaus 2003; Lachat 2007; Prior and Lupia 2008). Political knowledge provides citizens with the feeling that they can understand the political system, and that they can play a meaningful role in the decision-making process (Dow 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Traditionally political knowledge was regarded as an important potential outcome for civic education efforts. Most of the currently available research, however, tends to focus on non-cognitive goals, despite the fact that studies repeatedly have shown that political knowledge is an important resource for enlightened and engaged citizenship. In this article, we investigate whether civic education efforts at school contribute to political knowledge levels. The analysis is based on the Belgian Political Panel Survey, a 2year panel study among 2,988 Belgian late adolescents. The analysis shows that experiences with group projects at school contribute significantly to political knowledge levels 2years later on. Furthermore, we can observe an interaction effect as those who are already most knowledgeable about politics, gain most from these group projects. Classes about politics, on the other hand, did not have an effect on knowledge levels. In the discussion, it is argued that civic education can have strong cognitive effects, but that these effects are not always related to classical civic education efforts and we discussion the policy implication for civic education. KeywordsCivic education–Political knowledge–Panel research–Belgium–Adolescents
    Educational Assessment Evaluation and Accountability 12/2011; 23(4):321-339. DOI:10.1007/s11092-011-9131-5 · 0.69 Impact Factor
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