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What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300072754
ISBN-10: 0300072759
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The American public's cynical attitude toward politics is much discussed, but what do Americans really know about politics? Two political scientists provide a detailed examination of who knows what, how much, and why it matters in American politics. Employing survey data of Americans for a nearly 50-year period and utilizing sophisticated statistical techniques, Delli Carpini (Barnard Coll.) and Keeter (Virginia Commonwealth Univ.) find that, while Americans are not as knowledgeable as they should be, they are not completely ignorant of politics and that the level of political knowledge has remained virtually unchanged over 40 years. Among the authors' other major findings: women, African Americans, the poor, and the young tend to be less politically knowledgeable than the rest of the population; and people with higher levels of motivation and skills tend to be better educated about politics. This excellent study places its quantitative research in the context of thoughtful and significant discussions of democratic theory. Recommended for political science students at all levels.?Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300072759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300072754
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on March 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Anyone interested in the knowledge levels of the American public, especially in terms of political opinions and where that type of knowledge comes from, will find this book very informative and rewarding. Delli Carpini and Keeter have accumulated a very well researched and documented mass of data concerning what the American people know about many different categories of politics. In an enlightening fashion they break down political knowledge not just into different categories of information, but also by demographic categories in the general population. We find that socio-economic status is as important to political knowledge levels as personal interest or media exposure, leading to occasionally worrisome conclusions about how average people can truly make a difference.
This book does sometimes lapse into unnecessarily complex statistical models rife with under-explained regression analyses and coefficients (which should have been relegated to the Appendix section), while the writing style tends to be repetitive and is generally very verbose. Meanwhile, the conclusive analysis of "why it matters" is a bit rushed at the end of the book. But regardless of those issues, this book shows convincingly that the American public's knowledge of their own nation's politics is both more complex than may be expected, but that their knowledge is not always put to the most effective uses. Happily, the authors show that citizens typically do not consign political perceptions into simplistic liberal vs. conservative and black-and-white ideologies, as you may guess from the behavior of politicians and the media. However, we can also see here that the knowledge of the American masses is not frequently put to the best of uses, either by themselves or their leaders. [~doomsdayer520~]
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
*What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters* is an important book in that it reveals how informed voters have more stable, consistent opinions and are much more resistant to irrelevant information (such as commentary in the media and campaign rhetoric, sound bites, and photo ops). It also reveals that informed voters hold opinions that more closely match those of the Founders of the United States -- including personal responsibility and limited federal powers -- than do those who are ignorant of the issues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ab on April 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
knowledge scales and political sophistication are key variables in social science studies that often are used without really thinking about what they mean or measure. This book provides insight into this problem and real solutions to solve it, in addition to the primary context of how informed americans are about politics. Great work and a must have for any collection.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a very refreshing book on public opinion. Delli Carpini provides a different take on what Americans know. It was previously thought they know very little about politics, in effect that they were ignorant. It turns out that the typical citizen may not be as informed as a political scientist, but they know bits of what is going on, so they are not ignorant either. In effect, they get the big picture and most of the important details, but do not really sweat the small stuff. This means that they can handle most major decisions without needed to become a regular cliff claven on any topic because they know more about things than the elite think.
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