Synopses & Reviews
In this, the most comprehensive analysis of the American public's knowledge of politics ever written, Michael Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter explore how levels of knowledge have changed over the past fifty years, how knowledge is distributed among different groups, and how it is used in political decision-making. The authors draw on extensive survey data, much of it original, to provide compelling evidence for the individual and collective benefits of a politically informed citizenry -- and the cost of a citizenry that is poorly and inequitably informed.
"An excellent.... The authors contribute usefully to the ongoing debate about the nature of and prospects for democracy in the U.S". -- Choice
"With clear prose, a deep sense of the normative implications of their enterprise, an imaginative new set of surveys, and analytic elegance, Delli Carpini and Keeter show us the contours of political knowledge and ignorance among Americans, why these contours exist, and why they matter". -- Jennifer L. Hochschild, Princeton University
"(This book) reflects years of data collection and much reading and thought about democratic citizenship. It is a first-rate, ... very important piece of research that will spark empirical and normative debate for years to come". -- James H. Kuklinski, Journal of Politics
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.