The Importance of Political Knowledge for Effective Citizenship

Mona S. Kleinberg, Richard R. Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


General political knowledge is a central variable in American politics research. Individuals with high political knowledge exhibit behaviors that are consequential to a well-functioning democracy, including holding more stable political opinions, exhibiting greater ideological constraint, knowing more about political candidates, and being more likely to vote correctly. In this paper, we examine whether the internet revolution, enabling citizens to look up anything at any time, has changed the relative importance of political knowledge in American politics. We show that important generational differences exist between Americans raised during the broadcast era and Americans raised with the presence and accessibility of the internet. Internet access can be a substitute for political knowledge stored in long-term memory, particularly among this younger generation, who may be relying on the internet to store knowledge for them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-362
Number of pages25
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 12 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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