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The Roots of Citizens' Knowledge of State Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 January 2021

Jeffrey Lyons
University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, USA
William P. Jaeger
University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, USA
Jennifer Wolak*
University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, USA
Jennifer Wolak, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, 333 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0333, USA. Email:


Do citizens have the information they need to hold state politicians accountable? We consider what people know about state politics and whether knowledge of state government is rooted in the same factors that explain knowledge of national matters. We argue that while knowledge of national politics is rooted within individual dispositions like education and political interest, knowledge of state politics depends on the political climate of the state. When state political environments provide more information and greater incentives to become informed, people are more knowledgeable about state matters. Even if citizens are not always well versed in matters of state politics, they appear to monitor the business of the states. Citizens are most knowledgeable about state politics in the cases where information is arguably most important—when state governments are underperforming, when political competition is high, and when the political parties in the state are ideologically divided.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s) 2012

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