The Public's Knowledge of Politics
Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power of the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.
To say that much of the public is uninformed about much of the substance of politics and public policy is to say nothing new. Few serious observers of politics have ever thought the public was highly informed. While the advent of modern survey research provided ample evidence to confirm the views of the skeptics about the public's competence, sweeping generalizations about public ignorance of politics accomplish little. Even a modestly democratic society, in which regular elections still take place, would benefit from whatever competence the citizenry can muster. And so the more relevant question is "Who knows what about what?" Or "How many people are how informed (or ignorant) about what topics?"
Answers to these broad questions provide important evidence for assessing the quality of democracy in contemporary society. Hardly any democratic theorists specified the particular levels and types of knowledge the public needs for democracy to work best, but nearly all the