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The knowledge gap in world politics: Assessing the sources of citizen awareness of the United Nations Security Council

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 January 2016

Lisa Maria Dellmuth
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Stockholm University
Corresponding

Abstract

The past decades have seen a significant expansion in the scope and authority of international organisations (IOs), raising questions about who participates and is represented in the public contestation of IOs. An important precondition for citizens to become critically involved in the public debate about an IO is that they are aware of the politics of that IO. This article sheds light on this largely unexplored issue, asking why some citizens are more aware of IOs than others. This question is examined in the context of a powerful international organisation, the United Nations Security Council. Using a multilevel analysis of citizens in 17 Asian and European countries, this article argues that citizen knowledge about the Council is shaped by economic conditions and cosmopolitan identity. Higher levels of knowledge are found among the wealthier, and there is some evidence that income inequality depresses knowledge among poorer citizens. Furthermore, citizens identifying with groups or individuals across nation-state borders are more likely to know more about the Council. The article sketches broader implications for the study of the politicisation of IOs and citizen representation in the public contestation of IOs.

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Copyright
© British International Studies Association 2016 

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References

1 Data and supplemental information necessary to reproduce the numerical results is available on the author’s homepage at: {http://www.lisadellmuth.net}.

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61 The ASES covers 18 countries, but China drops out of the analyses since not all survey questions have been asked in this country. The analyses include France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and the UK.

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63 Luskin, ‘Explaining political sophistication’; Neuman, The Paradox of Mass Politics; Zaller, The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion; Delli Carpini and Keeter, What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters, ch. 4; Mondak, ‘Reconsidering the measurement of political knowledge’.

64 Zaller, The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, ch. 2, ch. 3, and pp. 333ff.

65 Ibid., p. 43.

66 Appendix A gives an overview of the wording of the survey questions.

67 Summary statistics for and correlations between the variables are reported in Tables B1 and B2 in Appendix B.

68 Converse, ‘Assessing the capacity of mass electorates’, p. 333. See also Neuman, The Paradox of Mass Politics, and Delli Carpini and Keeter, What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters, ch. 4.

69 The time period considered here ranges from the mid-1990s until 2000. See United Nations Security Council, ‘Security Council Resolutions’ (2014), available at: {http://www.un.org/en/sc/documents/resolutions/}.

70 See also Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’. The calculation of this measure is based on the assumption that the data are representative for the broader populations of the 17 countries, as the accuracy of the measure would be distorted in the case of an over- or under-representation of specific income groups in the survey data. However, sampling in all countries aimed at nationally representative samples. Only in two countries, the fieldwork relied on quota samples instead of random samples (see fn. 25), increasing our confidence in that the assumption is warranted.

71 Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’. This variable is made available for 2001 by Teorell, Charron, Dahlberg, Holmberg, Rothstein, Sundin, and Svensson, ‘The Quality of Government Basic Dataset Made From The Quality of Government Dataset Version 15May13’.

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75 Cf. Holbrook, Berent, Krosnick, Visser, and Boninger, ‘Attitude importance and the accumulation of attitude-relevant knowledge in memory’.

76 Highton, ‘Revisiting the relationship between educational attainment and political sophistication’.

77 Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’.

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83 Using this model requires testing whether the covariate effects are constant across categories. A test of this assumption suggests that this assumption is reasonable given the data at hand. See Sophia Rabe-Hesketh and Anders Skrondal, Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata (Texas: Stata Press, 2008).

84 The intra-class correlation, which reveals how much of the total variation in knowledge lies at the country level, is estimated according to the following equation (cf. Rabe-Hesketh and Skrondal, Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata): ρ=Var(ζ1j )/(Var(ζ1j )+π2/3)=0.22/(0.22+π2/3)=0.05.

85 Note that the Variance Inflation Factor is less than 2, indicating that multicollinearity should not inflate the coefficient estimates (see Fox, John and Monette, Georges, ‘Generalized collinearity diagnostics’, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 87:417 (1992), pp. 178183 CrossRefGoogle Scholar).

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87 Cf. Ansolabehere, de Figueiredo, and Snyder Jr., ‘Why is there so little money in U.S. politics?’; Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’.

88 Cf. Schattschneider, The Semisovereign People, pp. 105–7; Dahl, On Political Equality, ch. 7.

89 Norris, ‘Global governance and cosmopolitan citizens’; Norris, ‘Confidence in the United Nations’.

90 Delli Carpini and Keeter, What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters.

91 Cf. Dolan, ‘Do women and men know different things?’

92 Cf. Delli Carpini and Keeter, What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters; Highton, ‘Revisiting the relationship between educational attainment and political sophistication’.

93 Johnson and Wallack, Electoral Systems and the Personal Vote.

94 Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’.

95 Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy; Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’.

96 Tweksbury, Cf. David, Weaver, Andrew J., and Maddex, Brett D., ‘Accidentally informed: Incidental news exposure on the World Wide Web’, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 78:3 (2001), pp. 533554 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

97 See, for a similar coding, Dellmuth and Tallberg, ‘The social legitimacy of international organisations’.

98 United Nations Security Council, ‘Security Council Resolutions’.

99 See, for example, Delli Carpini and Keeter, What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters; Highton, ‘Revisiting the relationship between educational attainment and political sophistication’; Luskin, ‘Explaining political sophistication’.

100 See, for example, Johnson and Wallack, Electoral Systems and the Personal Vote.

101 See, for example, Solt, ‘Economic inequality and democratic political engagement’.

102 See, for example, Mau, Mewes, and Zimmermann, ‘Cosmopolitan attitudes through transnational practices’; Norris and Inglehart, Cosmopolitan Communications, ch. 6.

103 Feldman, Stanley, ‘Structure and consistency in public opinion: the role of core beliefs and values’, American Journal of Political Science, 32:2 (1987), pp. 416440 Google Scholar; Hurwitz, Jon and Peffley, Mark, ‘How are foreign policy attitudes structured? A hierarchical model’, American Political Science Review, 81:4 (1987), pp. 10991120 Google Scholar; Brewer, Paul R. and Gross, Kimberley, ‘Values, framing, and citizens’ thoughts about policy issues: Effects on content and quantity’, Political Psychology, 26:6 (2005), pp. 929948 Google Scholar.

104 To this end, we need better survey data on citizen awareness of IOs, preferably in the form of multi-item knowledge measures that result in more valid representations of what people know about IOs. See Mondak, ‘Reconsidering the measurement of political knowledge’.

105 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, ‘Divided We Stand: Why Income Inequality Keeps Rising’ (2011), available at: {http://www.oecd.org/social/soc/49499779.pdf}.

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