Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

The Level of Political Knowledge in Slovenia: Who Is (Not) Politically Informed?

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

The Level of Political Knowledge in Slovenia: Who Is (Not) Politically Informed?

Article excerpt

Delli Carpini and Keeter showed that political knowledge is more or less general, meaning that informed citizens are usually informed in all aspects of political knowledge. Unfortunately, political knowledge is not evenly distributed. This is even more problematic when we keep in mind that the politically informed are also more politically active. The aim of this paper is to find out how informed Slovenians are as citizens of a young post-socialist democracy and who is informed. We used data from the European Election Study 2009 and performed a simple comparison of mean values and a linear regression model. Slovenians turned out to be moderately knowledgeable, with higher levels of EU political knowledge in comparison to national political knowledge. Slovenians were also among the most knowledgeable citizens in the EU member states. Differences in the level of knowledge are present between males and females, education groups and classes, based on the level of news attention and political interest.

Key words: political knowledge, knowledge inequality, Slovenia, European Union, European Election Study.

1 Introduction

Democracy as a form of government is based upon the presumption that citizens are active in political participation, informed and engaged in political activity (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996). Furthermore, a supposition of democracy is 'that decision making of the public is based on well-informed and sophisticated political reasoning (Scheufeie et al 2002,427)'. The ideal citizen in a democratic system is thus informed, doubtful, partial to public affairs, attentive towards positions of his or her nation and the quality of its leaders (Iyengar and Kinder 1987, 119) but also always concerned about issues that have an impact and take place in his community (Lippman 1961, 269). However, the research shows that the average citizen is poorly informed, with scarce knowledge of political institutions, public policies, socio-economic circumstances and political actors, while this level of information - or to be more precise, the lack of information - is stable over time (Delli Carpini 2000, 129; Lupia and McCubbins 2003, 17). Despite scarce knowledge of governmental affairs and politics, the average citizen is regularly confronted with the need to form an opinion towards public issues. Ultimately, citizens have to decide to whom they give their vote to and how they will make decisions about programmes and candidates (Stokes 1962, 690). Notwithstanding the high level of political ignorance, Delli Carpini and Keeter (1996, 289) claim that voters do not need all the information that is out there to make reasonable decisions (see also Lupia and McCubbins 2003). Iyengar (1990,182) also argues that we should abolish the model of an informed voter, which is completely unrealistic. After all, a low level of information does not mean complete ignorance, and at least it does not mean general ignorance (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1994, 19). With the acquisition of new information, voters can at least familiarize themselves about current political events (Popkin 1994). The question thus no longer is whether the public is politically informed, but rather who is informed and what he is informed about (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1994,19). Therefore we are setting the following three research questions:

1. Who in Slovenia is politically informed?

2. Who is knowledgeable about national issues compared to EU issues?

3. How knowledgeable are Slovenians in comparison to citizens in other EU member states?

While surveys of political behaviour, attitudes and opinions in Slovenia are regularly conducted, measures of political knowledge, although present, are not that uniform. This article, by use of data collected from the European Election Study 2009, examines sources of variation in political knowledge of Slovenian citizens, comparing also the level of knowledge in Slovenia to other EU-member states. Due to the recent elections for the European parliament (May 2014), the question of who possesses political knowledge about national and EU issues is very topical. …

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