I just uploaded a new article that I’ve had accepted in Public Opinion Quarterly. The article – Local Political Knowledge and Assessments of Citizen Competence – has been working its way through conceptualization (procrastination) for a very long time now. But, in the midst of lots of upheaval, it is now ready for its global debut.
The basic gist of the piece is simple: sweeping assessments of the American public’s political competence are skewed by not considering local politics. Different issues resonate with different (groups of) citizens, and accordingly political knowledge is spread unequally throughout the population. Political scientists typically study national politics, and based on analyses of national political knowledge there is a certain perspective of the competence of the American electorate: it isn’t very competent. Beyond that overarching conclusion, the general view is that the people most likely to be competent are high SES white men.
My piece seeks to present a more rounded view of competence, by assessing it in the context of both local and national knowledge. When this is done, it appears that the American electorate as a whole may be slightly more competent than typically thought. And, certain groups that are often thought to be less competent (women, minorities) may just be less knowledgeable about national politics — not all political matters. So, it’s a slightly more optimistic (and balanced) analysis of citizen competence.