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In this paper, an indicator to measure the degree of electoral political sophistication was created to determine along with the traditional indicator of political sophistication the impact of communicative variables. For this, an analytical survey was carried out after the gubernatorial elections of the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon (2015), Puebla (2016) and Mexico (2017). Findings showed a positive impact of the use of web pages about politics and interactive communication in both dimensions of sophistication as well as electoral debates on electoral sophistication.
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ISSN Impreso 1405-1435, Electrónico 2448-5799, UAEM, núm. 77, mayo-agosto 2018,
https://doi.org/10.29101/crcs.v25i77.9298
e inuence of communicational habits on the
citizens’ political sophistication
Carlos Muñiz / carlos.munizm@uanl.mx
https://orcid.org/orcid.org/0000-0002-9021-8198
Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, México
Martín Echeverría / echevemartin@yahoo.com.mx
https://orcid.org/orcid.org/0000-0001-6071-8725
Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, México
Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada / ale0323@gmail.com
https://orcid.org/orcid.org/0000-0001-9963-2654
Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, México
Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez / oniel.diaz@ugto.mx
https://orcid.org/orcid.org/0000-0002-2271-8940
Universidad de Guanajuato, México
Abstract: In this paper, an indicator to measure the degree of electoral political sophistication
was created to determine along with the traditional indicator of political sophistication the
impact of communicative variables. For this, an analytical survey was carried out aer the
gubernatorial elections of the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon (2015), Puebla (2016) and
Mexico (2017). Findings showed a positive impact of the use of web pages about politics
and interactive communication in both dimensions of sophistication as well as electoral
debates on electoral sophistication.
Key words: political sophistication, political knowledge, communicational habits, Internet,
electoral campaign.
Resumen: En este artículo se creó un indicador para medir el grado de sosticación política
electoral con el n de analizar, junto al indicador tradicional de sosticación política, el
impacto de las variables comunicativas en su nivel. Para ello, se trabajó con una encuesta
analítica aplicada tras las elecciones a gobernador de los estados mexicanos de Nuevo Leon
(2015), Puebla (2016) y Estado de México (2017). Los resultados mostraron un impacto
positivo del seguimiento de páginas web de política y de la comunicación interactiva en
ambas dimensiones de la sosticación, y de los debates electorales en la sosticación electoral.
Palabras clave: sosticación política, conocimiento político, hábitos comunicativos,
Internet, campaña electoral.
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
2
Introduction1
A solid democracy requires steady institutions as well as a rm political
system which may allow the alternation of power among the dierent
political options by holding free and just elections. However, although such
structures are needed to manage a system wholly democratic, they are not
enough. Oentimes a citizenry committed in a political and civic degree is
considered a condition for the good functioning of democracy, it should be
informed about the events which take place in the political sphere of the
country (Buendía and Somuano, 2003; Delli-Carpini, 2004; Delli-Carpini
and Keeter, 1996). Citizens will be able to correctly express their opinions
and appropriately articulate their political preferences inasmuch as they are
informed (Elenbaas et al., 2014).
e motivation and interest to acquire information about politics and
the ability to process and accumulate it are key elements to structure the
citizen’s political knowledge. (Luskin, 1990; Zaller, 1992). e consequences
of political knowledge stored in citizens not only impact the existence of a
citizenry of quality, but also the health of democracy upheld by society (de
Vreese and Boomgaarden, 2006). is encouraged dierent disciplines to
study the generation process of political knowledge and its repercussions
for the system. Usually in these works the concepts of political knowledge,
political awareness and political sophistication are found as interchangeable
or at least very related with each other (Popa, 2015; Rhee and Cappella,
1997; Zaller, 1992). e latter, political sophistication, will be taken as a
reference in this study, as it encompasses the other two.
Having sophisticated individuals in the political eld is crucial for the
good development of democracy, since it leads to the ecient exertion
of rights which pertain to them as citizens. is is so because they have a
more complete and exact knowledge, which is based on a wider and better
organized and incorporated structures of mental knowledge on politics
(Luskin, 1987 and 1990; Rhee and Cappella, 1997). is enables them to
make use of more and better cognitive resources in order to, for instance, vote
thoughtfully or take part in the dierent political elds which democracy
oers them (Buendía and Somuano, 2003; Hollander, 2014; Prior, 2005).
An ideal democracy should have a great number of highly sophisticated
citizens, however, in reality this is not easy to occur. (Dassonneville, 2012).
1 is research was nanced by the Programa para el Desarrollo Profesional Docente
(Prodep) and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Conacyt).
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
3
Normally, less sophisticated citizens conform an important part of society,
and it is not even surprising that the average citizen shows little interest for
the events in the political eld and so does not have a special motivation to
look for information about politics.
Now, even if citizens were motivated to access information,
(Dassonneville, 2012; Luskin, 1990), it is not always easy to obtain it. In
fact, political knowledge is generally acquired in a vicarious way through
media (Elenbaas et al., 2014; Rhee and Cappella, 1997), where in a great
amount political campaigns and debates take place. Media, therefore,
assume a signicant role since they are a technique of transference and
translation of political reality to citizens (Muñiz, 2012). ey constitute to
a large extent the main source of information for most citizens (Cho et al.,
2009; Rojas, 2006; Woolley et al., 2010), being their information coverage
on politics the currency with which democracies function (Gerth and
Siegert, 2012). erefore, since they allow to establish a bound between
the opinions of citizens on political subjects and their electoral decision,
they contribute to governance.
Probably, one of the political moments in which media acquire a
fundamental role as a mechanism of information is during electoral
campaigns. In fact, it has been seen that during electoral campaigns citizens
broaden their knowledge on public aairs (Craig et al., 2005; Hansen and
Pedersen, 2014), which contributes to make a knowledgeable decision
when voting.
It is possible that these stages of political life in countries conform a
propitious situation for the increase of civic political sophistication, not
precisely the one linked with the degree of factual political knowledge
(Weisberg and Nawara, 2010), but rather the one related with the knowledge
about campaign proposals, attitudes and candidates’ competence who
participate in the electoral battle (Stevens, 2005). Although there is a great
number of research on political sophistication linked with the citizens’
factual knowledge, the number of research on the voter’s sophistication
(Van Heerde et al., 2006) or electoral awareness (Schuck et al., 2013),
which in this paper is called electoral political sophistication, is lesser.
Following these premises, this paper sought to determine what
importance the dierent communicative practices performed by citizens
have –for instance, attention to political contents, use of web pages about
politics, watching electoral debates, use of social networks and political
conversation– in both the generation of factual political sophistication and
electoral political sophistication. In order to do so, data from the surveys
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
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carried out in the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon (2015), Puebla (2016)
and Mexico (2017) were used, in the context of electoral campaigns for
gubernatorial elections of each State.
Literature used
Conceptualization of political sophistication
It is true that the term political sophistication has been widely used in scientic
literature, in disciplines such as political sciences, psychology or political
communications, however, there is not a uniformity regarding its conceptual
denition. As Luskin (1987 and 1990) said, research avoids to a large extent
the conceptual debate in order to focus on the operational eld of what the
denition of political sophistication encompasses. One of the reasons for
this is that two disciplines have conceptualized this term dierently (Rhee
and Cappella, 1997). Political sciences usually surveys more the ideological
nature of the people’s political knowledge, whereas for political psychology
the concept is seen from the process of construction of knowledge and its
use by citizens. Consequently, there are multiple denitions. Some of them
link the concept with the citizens´ political condence, the amount of
information they receive, their interest for politics or their ability to make
political judgements (Lee and Chang, 2011).
In his widely quoted work, Luskin (1987: 860) denes political
sophistication as the “number, diversity and organization [both internal
and inter-schematic] of the political frames of a person.” at is to say,
sophistication is linked with the person’s degree of “cognitive complexity”,
understanding that the greater their political experience is, the greater their
degree of political sophistication will be, and in the same way their cognitive
ability (Lee and Chang, 2011; Zaller, 1992). In this sense, to the extent
someone possess greater political sophistication, they will tend to give more
attention to political events and to have a greater ability to comprehend
them as well (Zaller, 1992: 21). at is, as the citizen pays attention to what
occurs around them, they will have a greater political awareness, which will
contribute to enlarge their political knowledge expressed in objective and
well-formed ideas about the system (Schuck et al., 2013).
So, a sophisticated citizen is the one who has an “intellectual or cognitive
compromise [...] with public aairs” (de Vreese et al., 2011: 183); that is,
someone who has cognitive structures or deep, complex, and organized
political frames (Dassonneville, 2012; Miller, 2011; Stevens, 2005), which
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
5
are used to process information, value the political actors as well as identify
and articulate their interests to compromise and participate in a more
benecial way in politics (Delli-Carpini and Keeter, 1996).
ese structures presuppose the citizens factual political knowledge,
understood as the notions about the political system, its structure, functioning
and rules of the game, about its principal actors and activities within it, which
—before the subjective opinions— can be objectively veried (Delli Carpini
and Keeter, 1996; Popa, 2015; Rhee and Cappella, 1997). is centrality
of knowledge in the conguration of a sophisticated citizen has led a great
amount of literature to use it as a synonym of sophistication (Buendía and
Somuano, 2003; Delli-Carpini and Keeter, 1996) by saying that it is the only
common measure in all researches carried out (Rhee and Cappella, 1997).
Before this constrained conception of political sophistication which links
it solely with a part of political knowledge, other authors have mentioned the
need to have more elements in order to oer an appropriate denition of
what is expected of a sophisticated citizen (Miller, 2011; Muñiz, 2012). For
instance, Guo and Moy (1998) underscore that sophistication derives also
from the political interest which citizens maintain to acquire information.
is idea is formulated also by authors like Catellani and Alberici (2012) or
Dassonneville (2012: 27), who says that “the variables related with political
sophistication [...] are ‘the usual suspects, political knowledge and interest
in politics.” So, just as dierent degrees of knowledge can be presented so
the specialization and degrees in the interest in politics, contributing to the
fact that not all citizens involve themselves in the same topics nor in the
same measure (Dalton, 2006; Norris 2000). erefore, the more informed
and the more a citizen reects upon subjects they consider of high interest,
the more plausible is that they develop greater levels of personal political
sophistication (Muñiz, 2012).
at said, it can be perceived that in order to produce a signicant
degree of political sophistication in citizens, not only does maintaining
frames and mental structures in the form of political knowledge is necessary,
but it is also required an acceptable degree of interest so as to motivate
them to keep themselves informed about the public aairs of their sphere
(Buendía and Somuano, 2003; de Vreese et al., 2011; Smith and Durand,
1995). is conceptualization moves political sophistication to the eld of a
latent construct, in which features such as attention to political information,
interest and political knowledge are combined (Miller, 2011; Stevens,
2005). erefore, its operation will imply measuring factual knowledge in
a one-dimensional concept, starting from the sum of correct answers from
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
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dierent questions with regard to particular matters, as well as the degree
of interest held by citizens regarding dierent subjects and topics about the
politic context. (Catellani and Alberici, 2012; de Vreese et al., 2011; Guo
and Moy, 1998; Miller, 2011; Muñiz, 2012; Popa, 2015; Singh and Roy,
2014; Stevens, 2005).
Political sophistication in the electoral context
Measuring political sophistication has been traditionally linked with the
study of the degree of factual or real political knowledge held by citizens
(Luskin, 1987 and 1990; Miller, 2011; Rhee, 1997), usually by means of
verifying the quantity of possessed knowledge (Rhee and Cappella, 1997).
However, this way to calculate knowledge only veries through factual
questions the degree of knowledge citizens possess as they stay informed
about a series of events, for it falls short to calculate the real degree in which
citizens process the information and construct frames about those events
which enable them to comprehend their political sphere (de Vreese and
Boomgaarden, 2006; Rhee and Cappella, 1997). at is to say, not only
does recognizing institutions, norms and actors is important, but also having
awareness about how the dierent actors manage the dierent aairs of
political interest and how debates arise concerning such aairs. (Henderson,
2014; Rhee and Cappella, 1997).
Undoubtedly, the knowledge about how the common system functions
is needed to structure society, yet it becomes even more important in
electoral contexts. In these electoral contexts citizens who eectively
comprehend, from the proposals debated during campaigns, the political
reality are required in order to be voters who make decisions and participate
in the system (Delli-Carpini and Keeter, 1996; Henderson, 2014). It is
commonly known that electoral campaigns are the ground where political
debate tends to increase between the political actors, whether candidates,
parties or their representatives, and their interaction with citizens increases
as well (Drew and Weaver, 2006; Druckman and Leeper, 2012; Stevens,
2005). Although it is true that in these contexts strategies to obtain electoral
benets are developed, which contribute to the activation and mobilization
of electorates (Claassen, 2011; Craig et al., 2005; Gerth and Siegert, 2012), a
debate on main issues of public politics is also produced, which contributes
to foster attitudes and ways of thinking in citizens (Claassen, 2011; Weisberg
and Nawara, 2010).
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
7
It has been widely determined the existence of a close relationship between
possessing an acceptable amount of knowledge and having a greater tendency
to participate (Buendía and Somuano, 2003; Norris, 2000; Rojas, 2006);
something that also occurs in the electoral eld. Usually, voters who possess
a greater amount of political knowledge, and above all, a knowledge about
the matters debated in campaign, tend to involve themselves more and more,
using the information available during the electoral campaigns in their nal
decision (Singh and Roy, 2014). erefore, they should become educated and
rational voters, who aer reecting upon the dierent proposals of candidates
they chose the party or candidate they consider most reasonable (Catellani
and Alberici, 2012; Claassen, 2011; Dassonneville and Dejaeghere, 2014).
Even with all that, aspects such as a strong identication with a certain party
or prior political developed attitudes which the more sophisticated citizens
possess, could moderate the inuence of campaign (Zaller, 1992).
Paying attention to what occurs during campaign determines the
existence of citizens with a campaign awareness, similarly to the citizens
who possess greater or lesser political awareness. Hence, some authors
understand this awareness concerning the matters debated on campaign
as the manifestation of an electoral political sophistication (Schuck et al.,
2013; Van Heerde et al., 2006). is is a multidimensional concept which
measures the degree of aective compromise, that is, the citizens’ interest
in the development of the electoral campaign, which as has been observed
increases the recognition of aspects debated during the electoral campaign
(Hollander, 2005). But also the cognitive compromise, that is, the degree
of campaign knowledge, before the civic knowledge, normally measured
through questions about the political stances the dierent candidates have
regarding the matters debated in the electoral battle or about their specic
programmatic proposals (Claassen, 2011; Hansen and Pedersen, 2014;
Hollander, 2005; Rhee, 1997; orson, 2014; Van Heerde et al., 2006).
Explanatory factors of political sophistication
It is usual to nd in the literature of disciplines such as political sciences or
communications, studies which have tried to establish which factors inuence
the increase or reduction of the citizens’ political knowledge and political
sophistication (Delli-Carpini and Keeter, 1996; Hollander, 2014; Luskin,
1990; Popa, 2015; Zaller, 1992). e results of such researches propose a
variety of elements which have an impact on the interest and political
knowledge, and determine the degree of political sophistication held by the
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
8
citizen. Even from his seminal work, Luskin (1990) noted the three main
factors which determined the degree of sophistication. In this sense, it can
be assumed that the sophisticated citizen is s/he who possess a cognitive
ability, that is, tools to acquire and process the information of their sphere as
well as an opportunity to be able to acquire that information; factors which
determine how easily a citizen learns about their political sphere (Elenbaas et
al., 2014; Gordon and Segura, 1997).
Finally, Luskin (1990) pointed as a signicant factor motivation or
the citizens desire to learn about what occurs in their sphere. is aspect
explains to a large extent the individuals’ seeking and paying attention to
information in order to understand what occurs in the system. e fact
of having an inherent motivation to stay informed combined with an
acceptable amount of available information through sources such as media,
clearly inuences the citizen’s process of learning, contributing to structure
their political knowledge (Elenbaas et al., 2014). For this reason, motivation
has been associated as the degree of interest citizens possess regarding
politics (Elenbaas et al., 2014; Popa, 2015). Under this assumption, a lack
of motivation would suppose the rst barrier to the process of acquiring
information (Prior, 2005) rather than the lack of information and abilities
held by the citizen to process it.
Now, even though these variables motivation or ability may have a
greater impact in the generation of political sophistication than in the
one related to the research of information (Luskin, 1990; Prior, 2005),
the citizen, undoubtedly, needs to obtain information to structure their
comprehension and knowledge about what occurs inside the system. In this
research, Luskin (1990) included the consumption of conventional media,
whose inuence has been extensively studied.
In the case of the press, it has been constantly perceived that its
consumption has a positive eect in the increase of the citizen’s sophistication
(Delli-Carpini and Keeter, 1996; Gordon and Segura, 1997; Guo and Moy,
1998; Hollander, 2005; Popa, 2015; Rhee and Cappella, 1997); in the
case of television, it has been observed that its consumption has a negative
inuence in the generation of political knowledge (Gordon and Segura,
1997; Guo and Moy, 1998; Rhee and Cappella, 1997). Nonetheless, other
studies have found positive relationships regarding television consumption
(Hollander, 2005; Popa, 2015) mainly due to the sort of contents received
through this medium.
us, a dierence is observed between the exposition to media and
the attention to particular contents oered by them, such as news, political
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
9
programs or electoral debates (de Vreese and Boomgaarden, 2006; Muñiz,
2012; Rojas, 2006). In that regard, some authors note that the mere generic
exposition to media is a weak sign of the citizen’s political learning and
knowledge (Rhee and Cappella, 1997). Hence, we must pay more attention
to the selective exposition to political contents, that is, attention to politics
through conventional media. is variable has been pointed as a strong
factor which accounts for the increase of political knowledge in citizens
(Hollander, 2014; Rhee and Cappella, 1997; Rojas, 2006), and even in
audiences rather unmotivated in which a passive learning can be produced
from the casual exposition to such contents (Prior, 2005). is positive
eect has been also perceived in electoral contexts, usually both attention
to politics through conventional media (de Vreese and Boomgaarden,
2006; orson, 2014) as well as attention to electoral debates held during
the campaign (Drew and Weaver, 2006; Druckman and Leeper, 2012)
contribute to increase the knowledge about the matters debated and about
the personal characteristics of candidates.
e advent of new media, in their dierent presentations, is slowly
producing a migration of audiences from conventional media to online
resources (Woolley et al., 2010). Hence, authors such as Hollander (2014)
remind us that in the new studies on political culture it is necessary
to include items related to activities such as reading or the use of news and
contents online since they constitute factors which explain the citizens’
political attitudes. us, several authors say that media and social networks
are becoming for a great number of citizens a crucial resource in order to
follow the political information and, therefore, to generate political
knowledge (Cho et al., 2009; Drew and Weaver, 2006; Hollander, 2014).
is is because their consumption is not as demanding as other conventional
media, which enables the user of such media to look for more active
information thanks to a process of comparison between media contents;
this has suggested that a levelling eect of the users’ political knowledge
can be generated (Hollander, 2014; Prior, 2005). Such positive eect of
the consumption of contents of the new media about political knowledge
has been also identied in electoral campaigns (Drew and Weaver, 2006;
Partheymüller and Faas, 2015; Woolley et al., 2010).
Finally, the literature has also suggested an important eect on
the knowledge and political sophistication of the variable related to the
discussion or political conversation held among citizens, understood as a
crucial variable for the political democratic development (Cho et al., 2009;
Rojas, 2006; orson, 2014). It should be reminded that the citizens’
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
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communicative practices do not circumscribe to media consumption,
but also to the processes of intra and interpersonal reection, generally
understood as the political dialogue through conversation, which can have
an impact by managing to make changes in the citizens’ political attitudes.
anks to these strategies of exchange of interpersonal or even interactive
information through digital platforms (Yamamoto et al., 2015) the political
learning can be increased, serving this conversation as a catalyst factor of
the civic deliberative education (Gastil and Dillard, 1999). is is how, for
instance, orson (2014) presents it, when nding that the exposure to
news and the political discussion had a positive impact in the campaign
knowledge held by citizens.
From the empirical records examined, the following questions were
determined regarding the explanation of factual and electoral political
sophistication:
RQ1: At what extent does attention to politics through conventional media (a),
watching electoral debates (b), use of web pages about politics (c), use of the social
networks Facebook and Twitter (d), and the interactive political conversation (e)
contribute to increase factual political sophistication?
RQ2: At what extent does attention to politics through conventional media (a),
watching electoral debates (b), use of web pages about politics (c), use of the social
networks Facebook and Twitter (d), and the interactive political conversation (e)
contribute to increase electoral political sophistication?
In addition, and bearing in mind that is a comparative exploratory work
among three dierent electoral processes (vid ina), the following research
question was applied to explanatory models of factual and electoral political
sophistication:
RQ3: Were these inuences identical in the dierent studied electoral contexts?
Methodology
is research presents an explanatory methodological design under the
analytical survey method, which not only does it represent broad groups of
populations but aims among other objectives, to look for associations between
variables and their patterns of behavior, determine their directionality, prove
hypotheses and generate new hypotheses in an experimental design way
but with statistical controls as well. In order to widen the range of analytic
contexts and contrast them, three contexts where elections were held recently,
were chosen: the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon, Puebla and Mexico, in all
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
11
three such analytical survey was carried out in a convenience sample of users
of social networks.
In this sense, Facebook users from the three states were invited to
participate in an online survey, which was promoted as advertising in this social
network. e eld work was carried out immediately aer the gubernatorial
elections in each state: in Nuevo Leon aer the elections of June 7th during
the months of June and July, 2015; in Puebla aer the elections of June 5th,
from June to July, 2016; and in the State of Mexico aer the elections of June
4th, from June to July, 2017. From the data obtained only the answers from
people with legal age (≥ 18 years) and registered as voters in the three states
where the research was carried out were taken into account. 51% of the
sample in Nuevo Leon were women (n=152); 58% of the sample in Puebla
were men (n = 176); in the State of Mexico 50.4% were women (n = 180).
e participants in Nuevo Leon were between 18 and 67 years of age (M
= 34.06, DE = 12.57), the participants in Puebla were between 18 and 77
years of age (M = 38.90, DE = 14.59) and the participants in the State of
Mexico were between 18 and 71 years of age (M = 31.83, DE = 12.51).
Measures used
Attention to politics through conventional media. In order to know the
degree of consumption of contents on politics in conventional media
during the elections, the participants were asked how much they learned
about the campaign through the following: news in newspapers, news in
radio, news in television, political radio programs and political television
programs. All of them were measured with a Likert scale ranging from
nothing (1) to a lot (5). The scale was created from the sum of the five
items mentioned above. The scale had a good internal consistency for all
cases, the case in Nuevo Leon (α = .76), the case in Puebla (α = .77) and
the case of the State of Mexico (α = .80).
Use of social networks during campaign. e survey respondents were
asked how much they had used certain social networks to learn about
the gubernatorial electoral campaign of each state. In short, the use of
Facebook and Twitter was measured with a Likert scale ranging between
nothing (1) to a lot (5).
Interactive political conversation. It was intended to know at what extent
the respondents had had conversations about politics online, so it was used
the scale Yamamoto et al. (2015) which uses ve items, which evaluate
activities such as “writing about political matters online” or “joining in
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
12
political discussions online.” All were measured with ve-point Likert scales
ranging from nothing (1) to a lot (5). e scale was reliable for Nuevo Leon
(α = .89), for Puebla (α = .89) and for the State of Mexico (α = .89).
Factual political sophistication In order to generate the indicator of
factual political sophistication diverse proposals by prior dierent authors
were used as a reference, those proposals suggested summing the measures
of the respondents’ interest and political knowledge so as to generate
an indicator of political sophistication (Catellani and Alberici, 2012;
Guo and Moy, 1998; Muñiz, 2012; Schuck et al., 2013; Singh and Roy,
2014; Stevens, 2005). Firstly, it was measured the interest for politics the
respondents from the dierent states had. With the Likert scales which
ranged from nothing (1) to a lot (5), respondents were asked about their
interest for local or municipal, state, national or federal and international
politics. e scale produced by the sum of these items presented good
reliability for the three states, Nuevo Leon (α = .72), Puebla (α = .83) and
the State of Mexico (α = .71).
Regarding factual political knowledge, six questions were asked
concerning the present Mexican and state political reality, determining
whether the respondents answered correctly (1) or incorrectly (2) to
questions such as: How long is the term for governor? With both variables
the indicator of political sophistication was created taking as a reference
the proposal of de Vreese et al. (2011), which consists in duplicating the
importance given to the cognitive element compared with the aective
element by using the following formula:
Political sophistication= ((political interest x ½) + (political knowledge) / 2
e new indicator had a theoretical rank of variation which ranged
between 1.75 to reect the maximum political sophistication and 0.25 to
reect the minimum political sophistication.
Electoral political sophistication. e same proposal was used to know
the degree of the respondents’ political sophistication about the electoral
battle. e interest shown by the respondents for the gubernatorial elections
of each state was measured with a ve-point Likert scale which ranged from
completely uninterested (1) to completely interested (5). In addition, the
degree of electoral political knowledge shown by the respondents was also
measured with ve questions where respondents were required to choose
which candidate had proposed certain thing. e responses were codied
as: correct (1) or incorrect (0), following the same criteria for factual
political knowledge. e same process for factual political sophistication
was followed to create an indicator.
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
13
Control variables. Finally, the use of a series of control variables was
considered, some sociodemographic and other political. Respondents were
asked their gender (1=masculine; 2=feminine) and their age. ey were
also asked to indicate with a scale which ranged between less than 6,000
pesos (1) and more than 30,001 pesos (4), what their family’s monthly
income was approximately. And also their education level with a scale
which ranged between unschooled (1) to postgraduate studies (7). Finally,
they were asked to take an ideological stance, which ranged between leist
(0) to conservative (10).
Results analysis
In order to answer the questions mentioned above the explanatory factors
for both the factual and electoral political sophistication were determined,
in order to do so several hierarchical multiple linear regressions were used for
each state. With this technique, which allows to incorporate the independent
variables to the equation in dierent times, it is possible to create dierent
explanatory models and identify the variations in the eect produced by
the dierent predictor variables on the critically analyzed variables. In both
cases, the control variables were incorporated in the rst stage, constituted
by dierent sociodemographic measured aspects (model 1), and immediately
aerwards the variables related to the communicative habits observed
were added, such were attention to politics through conventional media,
watching electoral debates, the consumption of web pages about politics,
the use of social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and the interactive
political conversation (model 2). In this manner a control of impact of the
sociodemographic variables was created, considering the results of lack of
homogeneity among the samples mentioned.
Regarding the analysis on factual political sophistication (see Table 1)2,
the variables used in the regression conrmed the independent hypothesis
concerning the dependent variable, considering that the value of the
Durbin-Watson test was acceptable in all samples. In addition, problems
of collinearity were not shown among the variables used in each equation.
Concerning the results, in Nuevo Leon was observed that attention to
politics through conventional media (β = .123, p = .039), watching electoral
debates (β = .142, p = .022), use of Twitter (β = .136, p = .026), and
especially interactive political conversation during the electoral campaign
2 Tables are attached below in appendix (Editor’s note.)
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
14
(β = .246, p < .001) and the use of web pages about politics (β = .277, p <
.001) contributed to increase political sophistication.
Concerning Puebla the explanatory variables were interactive political
conversation (β = .175, p = .009), attention to politics through conventional
media during electoral campaign (β = .212, p < .001), and mainly, use of
web pages about politics (β = .267, p < .001). Finally, in the State of Mexico
a positive impact was perceived in the use of Twitter (β = .123, p = .025),
use of web pages about politics (β = .200, p < .001), and mainly, political
conversation during campaign (β = .208, p < .001).
Now, the analysis of explanatory variables of electoral political
sophistication (see table 2) conrmed the independent hypothesis concerning
the dependent variable of all independent variables of all samples used, and
no problems of collinearity were found either, which allowed to use all
variables in the analyses made. Regarding the importance the variables about
communicative habits had in explaining the electoral political sophistication
in Nuevo Leon, the analysis showed four variables which had a statistically
signicant impact. us, use of Twitter (β = .176, p = .003), use of web pages
about politics (β = .218, p < .001), interactive political conversation (β =
.252, p < .001) and watching electoral debates (β = .292, p < .001) managed
to impact consistently in the increase of political sophistication.
In Puebla, the results showed three explanatory variables which
contributed to enhance the respondents’ electoral sophistication: use of
Facebook during the electoral campaign (β = .161, p = .015), watching
debates (β = .212, p < .001) and the use of web pages (β = .299, p < .001).
Lastly, watching debates (β = .178, p = .002), use of web pages (β = .222, p
< .001) and interactive political conversation (β = .207, p < .001) during the
electoral campaign in the State of Mexico contributed positively to increase
the respondents’ electoral sophistication.
Arguments and conclusion
e main objective of this research was to determine the degree in which each
one of the considered communicative practices had an impact in determining
the citizens’ political sophistication, both factual and electoral. In sum, it was
expected to evaluate the inuence that factors such as attention to political
contents through conventional means, watching electoral debates, use of web
pages about politics, use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter,
and interactive political conversation had in the context of gubernatorial
electoral campaign in the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon (2015), Puebla
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
15
(2016) and Mexico (2017). Consequently, the rst question was focused on
the analysis of explanatory factors of factual political sophistication, which
emerges from the degree of interest for politics and the knowledge about the
political system citizens have.
e results let us see a decrement in the impact attention to political
contents through conventional media has, which was a variable that had
usually been among the most important to determine the citizens’ knowledge
and political sophistication (Hollander, 2014; Muñiz, 2012; Prior, 2005;
Rhee and Cappella, 1997; Rojas, 2006). Although in most elections, except
in the State of Mexico, using these contents still contributed to increase
political sophistication, it was observed that other communicative variables
related to the digital sphere begin to take a highly explanatory place of this
cognitive commitment of the citizen.
e use of web pages about politics such as having online conversations
about politics contributed signicantly to obtain more sophisticated
citizens in the eld of factual knowledge. erefore, positive hypotheses
proposed by other previous authors about the impact social media have
in political knowledge are conrmed (Cho et al., 2009; Hollander, 2014;
Woolley et al., 2010).
Concerning the second research question, it is observed that three were
the communicative variables which are more likely to determine the citizens’
political sophistication in the electoral eld. In this sense, in all the studied
electoral campaigns the political conversation in digital media, use of web
pages about politics and watching electoral debates seem to be the factors
which help citizens increase their interest for the events during campaign
and develop greater knowledge about the candidates’ proposals.
Consequently, the inuence of using the contents through conventional
media seems to decrease again, opposite to what other authors have found
in previous studies (de Vreese and Boomgaarden, 2006; orson, 2014).
However, the hypotheses previously proposed by other authors about the
positive inuence of debate are conrmed as long as traditional space of
campaign, and of the new media (Drew and Weaver, 2006; Druckman and
Leeper, 2012; Partheymüller and Faas, 2015; Woolley et al., 2010).
Along with the study of explanatory elements of both factual and
electoral political sophistication, in the third question was proposed whether
the explanatory models to be obtained would vary according to the electoral
studied context. Despite being from dierent states and years, the results
show that there are similar patterns among the three samples in relation to
the explanation of factual political sophistication.
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
16
In all three cases the main explanatory variables were those related to
the use of web pages and interactive political conversation, and even the
inuence of attention to conventional media. For the explanatory model of
the electoral political sophistication, a pattern which determines the impact
of certain communicative variables is also found. e use of web pages
and interactive conversation, and in this case, watching debates, all emerge
as the same explanatory elements in the three states. ere are only small
dierences among them with regard to the use of some social networks,
which are considered in both types of sophistication.
e results reveal the importance Internet and social media are having
in determining political attitudes, among them political sophistication. It
is more than evident the role conventional media are still playing in the
citizens’ political learning, yet it is true that increasingly more citizens begin
to use dierent digital platforms to inform themselves about politics (Drew
and Weaver, 2006), especially during electoral processes (Partheymüller and
Faas, 2015; Woolley et al., 2010). erefore, this seems to be the new scenario
where citizens become deep processors of political contents mentioned
by authors like Luskin (1990) or Prior (2005). us, the results obtained
allow to assume that a great part of highly sophisticated citizens are learning
information through web pages about politics, subsequently they reect
upon that information through strategies of political conversation online.
Indeed, Internet has given political actors a great opportunity to spread
their political discourse, considering that the new media break the barriers
between producer and consumer and the discourses of the dierent actors
are highly interrelated among themselves. Although conventional media
are still a main source of information, especially television which is a much
consumed medium, Internet has begun to be a mechanism highly eective to
transmit political information and have an impact in the citizens’ knowledge.
Particularly in young people, who are more familiar with the use of
media and social networks, and for whom a large amount of information
about elections comes through Internet (Woolley et al., 2010). It is for this
reason that it is necessary to keep doing research about the access to politics
through Internet in this sector of society, since it is in this age group that the
impact social networks have may be more explicit than what was found in
this research concerning population in general.
Scholars have widely argued that those who are more sophisticated
tend to change less their opinions by the inuence of media, and are less
inuenced by advertising during campaign since they have richer associative
information networks than those who are less sophisticated (Lee and
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
17
Chang, 2011; Miller, 2011; Zaller, 1992). is sort of hypothesis may lead
to cast doubt on the results obtained in the research in the sense of whether
or not the consumption of politics through Internet is breaking the barriers
between high and low sophisticated citizens, in a levelling process as the one
proposed by Hollander (2014) or Prior (2005). In this sense, it is necessary
to keep doing research about the dierences shown in this new digital
citizenry in order to determine at what extent media is inuencing the way
political knowledge is learned as well as how it is determining the degrees of
political sophistication citizens have.
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21
Appendix
Table 1
Explanatory models of factual political sophistication
Research variables
Nuevo Leon
(n = 294)
Puebla
(n = 301)
State of Mexico
(n = 357)
Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2
Respondent’s sex (1= woman) -.077 -.016 -.134* -0.049 -.063 -.038
Respondent’s age -.040 .143* .079 .074 .032 .047
Income .144* .138* .033 .085 .155* .056
Education level .051 .076 .138* .098 .149* .151**
Political ideology (10= conservative) .062 .092 -.010 -.052 -.001 -.009
Attention to conventional media .123* .212*** .085
Watching electoral debates .142* .084 .065
Use of web pages about politics .277*** .267*** .200***
Use of Facebook -.080 .117 .013
Use of Twitter .136* .073 .123*
Interactive political conversation .246*** .175** .208***
R2
control variables .040 .058 .071
R2
communication variables .288 .365 .187
R2
total .328 .423 .258
D 2.06 1.84 1.85
Note : All variables were measured with ve-point scales 1 (nothing) to 5 (a lot), except the one related to political sophistication which
ranged between 0.25 (nothing) to 1.75 (a lot). e size of the sample changes for each particular analysis, depending on the number of
lost cases in the variables used. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
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Table 2
Explanatory models of electoral political sophistication
Variables of the research
Nuevo Leon
(n = 294)
Puebla
(n = 301)
State of Mexico
(n = 357)
Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2
Respondent’s sex (1= woman) -.120 -.056 -.180** -.133* -.161** -.161**
Respondent’s age -.026 .158** -.029 .025 -.066 -.040
Income .112 .091 .078 .132* .046 -.043
Education level -.033 .029 .046 -.002 .116 .137*
Political ideology (10= conservative) .088 .099 -.076 -.090 -.105 -.106*
Attention to conventional media -.047 .085 .056
Watching electoral debates .292*** .212*** .178**
Use of web pages about politics .218*** .299*** .222***
Use of Facebook -.027 .161* -.007
Use of Twitter .176** -.030 .024
Interactive political conversation .252*** .058 .207***
R2
control variables .034 .052 .054
R2
communication variables .331 .323 .206
R2
total .366 .375 .260
D 2.16 1.63 1.81
Note : All variables were measured with ve-point scales from 1 (nothing) to 5 (a lot), except the one related to political sophistication
which ranged between 0.25 (nothing ) to 1.75 (a lot). e size of the sample changes for each particular analysis, depending on the number
of lost cases in the variables used. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001
Carlos Muñiz, Martín Echeverría , Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada and Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez.
e inuence of communicational habits on the citizens’ political sophistication
23
Carlos Muñiz. Ph.D. in Communications. Tenured professor in the
School of Political Sciences and International Relations, Autonomous
University of Nuevo Leon. Areas of research: media eects in the political
communication eld, framing of events. Recent publications: “Framing of
the electoral processes: the stages of the campaign as a moderator of the
presence of the political frames in the news”, in Palabra Clave (in press);
“Engagement of politicians and citizens in the cyber campaign on Facebook:
A comparative analysis between Mexico and Spain, in Contemporary Social
Science (in press); “Political sophistication as a mediator in the relation
between media consumption and citizen participation. Evidence from the
O-S-R-O-R model”, in Communication & Society, vol. 30, no. 3 (2017).
Martín Echeverría. Ph.D. in Communications and Culture. Research
Professor in the Institute of Government and Strategic Development
Sciences, Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla. Areas of
research: infotainment in the journalistic coverage of elections and
the development of presidential debates. Recent publications: “Sesgo
partidista en medios informativos. Una crítica metodológica y propuesta,
in Comunicación y Sociedad, vol. 30 no. 22 (2017); “Personalización
política e infoentretenimiento periodístico. Un estudio desde los encuadres,
in Cuadernos.info, no. 41 (2017); “Infoentretenimiento periodístico en
la cobertura de las elecciones. El caso de los debates presidenciales”, in
Convergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, no. 74 (2017).
Alejandra Rodríguez-Estrada Ph.D. in Social Sciences. Postdoctoral
stay Conacyt in the Institute of Government and Strategic Development
Sciences, Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla. Areas of
research: study of political communication as a scientic eld, political
socialization and political participation. Recent publications: “La tensión
centro-periferia en la producción del campo de la comunicación política.
El caso mexicano”, in Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, no. 72 (2017);
“Tensiones teóricas en torno al estudio de la ciencia. De la sociología de la
ciencia al concepto de campo cientíco, in Andamios, vol. 13 no. 31 (2016);
“Prácticas objetivadas y subjetivadas en la producción de investigadores del
campo cientíco de la comunicación política en México, in Global Media
Journal, vol. 13, no. 25 (2016).
Conergencia Revista de Ciencias Sociales, núm. 77, 2018, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México
24
Oniel Francisco Díaz-Jiménez Ph.D. in Political Sciences and
International Studies. Researcher professor at the Department of Political
and Government Studies, Universidad de Guanajuato. Areas of research:
compared government and politics, elections, political parties and parties
systems, political communication and public opinion. Recent publications:
“Los efectos de la comunicación política en el compromiso político de los
jóvenes en la elección presidencial mexicana de 2012”, in Revista Mexicana
de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, vol. 62, no. 229 (2017); “Election campaigns,
the media and their impact on civic engagement of Mexicans in the 2012
presidential election, in Comunicación y Sociedad, no. 29 (2017); “Las redes
sociales en las campañas de los candidatos a diputados locales del PRI, el
PAN y el PRD en las elecciones de 2015 en el Estado de México, in Apuntes
Electorales, vol. 16, no. 57 (2017).
Reception: December 13th, 2017.
Approval: February 12th, 2018.
... Ein empirischer Einblick in das Suchverhalten nach politischen Online-Informationen ermöglicht ein tieferes Verständnis über die Generierung politischen Wissens. Gleichwohl sind die Auswirkungen des Internets auf die Suche nach politischen Informationen und das resultierende politische Wissen bisher unzureichend erforscht (Dutton et al., 2017;Muñiz, Echeverría, Rodríguez-Estrada, & Diaz-Jimenez, 2018). Insbesondere zum Auswahl-und Rezeptionsverhalten auf Webseiten besteht eine Forschungslücke und so ist nur wenig darüber bekannt, welche Inhalte während einer Online-Suche zu politischen Themen rezipiert werden. ...
... B. Erfahrung und Motivation mit neuer Technologie (Parasuraman & Colby, 2014), Interneterfahrung und -fertigkeiten (Hargittai, 2009;Van Deursen, van Dijk, & Peters, 2012). Wie hingegen unterschiedliches Suchverhalten die Wissensgenerierung beeinflusst, war bisher nur selten Forschungsgegenstand (Muñiz et al., 2018). Dieser Forschungslücke widmet sich die vorliegende Studie. ...
... über spezifische politische Ereignisse, politische Vertreterinnen und Vertreter oder Parteipositionen (Pastarmadzhieva, 2015). Politisches Wissen bildet zum einen eine Grundlage für die Entwicklung politischer Einstellungen, welche über eine rein emotionale Begründung hinausgehen, und fördert ein Verständnis dafür, wie eigene Interessen in das komplexe politische System passen (Muñiz et al., 2018;Owen & Soule, 2015;Van Aelst et al., 2017). Zum anderen ist es eine Grundlage für ein effektives und selbstbewusstes Bürgerengagement: Menschen, die über ein fundiertes politisches Wissen verfügen, engagieren sich eher politisch und zivilgesellschaftlich (Bimber et al., 2014;Owen & Soule, 2015). ...
Chapter
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Wie Menschen online nach politischen Informationen suchen, bestimmt entscheidend darüber, welche Informationen rezipiert werden und in der Konsequenz über das generierte Wissen. Das Suchverhalten in Bezug auf politische Informationen und der Einfluss verschiedener Personenmerkmale auf das resultierende Wissen ist jedoch weitgehend unerforscht. Diese Studie zielt darauf ab, mit einem multimethodischen Design zu untersuchen, wie Menschen (N = 44) online nach politischen Parteienpositionen suchen und welches Wissen sie generieren. Mit fünf Suchaufgaben pro Probandin und Proband (N = 220 Suchaufgaben) wurden das Such- und Auswahlverhalten mittels Eye-Tracking analysiert. Es folgte eine Inhaltsanalyse der Eye-Tracking-Daten und der Antworten zum generierten Wissen. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass sich die Online-Suchen je nach Suchaufgabe nur in wenigen Aspekten unterscheiden. Das resultierende Wissen ist nicht für alle Suchaufgaben einheitlich und mitunter vom konkreten Suchverhalten abhängig.
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A web survey of college students was conducted to examine whether online political expression moderates the effects of political media use on political participation. Results showed that online political expression enhanced the effects of political mobile apps, traditional offline and online media, and social media on political participation. Implications are discussed for a mobilizing role of online media in the democratic process for young adults.
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