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Knowing More from Less: How the Information Environment Increases Knowledge of Party Positions

Abstract

Access to information is a hallmark of democracy, and democracy demands an informed citizenry. Knowledge of party positions is necessary for voters so that electoral choices reflect preferences, allowing voters to hold elected officials accountable for policy performance. Whereas most vote choice models assume that parties perfectly transmit positions, citizens in fact obtain political information via the news media, and this news coverage can be biased in terms of salience – which leads to asymmetric information. This study examines how information asymmetries in news coverage of parties influence knowledge about political party positions. It finds that the availability of information in the news media about a party increases knowledge about its position, and that party information in non-quality news reduces the knowledge gap more than information in quality news.

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University of Exeter (email: s.a.banducci@exeter.ac.uk); WZB Berlin Social Science Center (email: heiko.giebler@wzb.eu); University of Vienna (email: sylvia.kritzinger@univie.ac.at). Support for this research was provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/K004395/1) and the Austrian Science Fund (S10902-G11). A previous version was presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions in Mainz 2013. We are grateful to the participants of the workshop as well as the three anonymous referees for helpful comments. Data replication sets are available at http://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS, and online appendices are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123415000204.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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