What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters (Paperback)
Yale University Press, 9780300072754, 416pp.
Publication Date: September 23, 1997
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.