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01-06-2011 | Original Paper | Issue 2/2011

Political Behavior 2/2011

Accuracy and Bias in Perceptions of Political Knowledge

Journal:
Political Behavior > Issue 2/2011
Author:
John Barry Ryan
Important notes
A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2008 Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, IL. The author would like to thank Ben Highton, Robert Huckfeldt, Walter J. Stone, Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, and the editors and reviewers at Political Behavior for their comments.

Abstract

Learning through social communication is promoted when citizens are able to identify which of their associates is likely to possess the necessary political information. This paper examines the factors that influence individuals’ evaluations of political expertise. Actual political expertise plays a large role in perceived expertise, but mistakes are made. These are largely the result of assuming that those engaged in politics must also be knowledgeable about politics. This paper uses the 1996 Indianapolis-St. Louis Study and the 2000 National Election Study to identify factors that bias levels of perceived political knowledge. The paper concludes by demonstrating that perceived expertise plays a larger role than actual expertise in the social influence process.

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