‘To them that hath…’. News media and knowledge gaps

Aufsätze

Abstract

Scholars continue to debate what citizens know about politics, whether ordinary people lack the capacity to make rational and informed choices in a democracy, and what voters learn from election campaigns. One common prism to understand these issues focuses upon the role of ‘knowledge gaps’, suggesting that any adult learning from the media will be strongly conditioned by prior levels of formal education. An alternative theory suggests that lifetime learning occurs, so that adult use of the news media has the capacity to shrink any information gaps arising from early schooling. Dozens of studies have examined the individual-level factors associated with political knowledge among citizens, including the role of fixed characteristics such as sex and race, and of slowly changing factors such as education and income. Cross-national research is important, however, as the broader context of information environments is expected to play a vital role in shaping political learning; with smaller knowledge gaps predicted in more cosmopolitan societies, where communications flows easily across and within national borders.

To explore these issues, this study compares European citizens to investigate whether the size and distribution of any knowledge gaps are affected by individual-level education and media use and also by societal-level processes of cosmopolitan communications. The study utilizes the European Parliament Election Study 2009 survey, monitoring individual level news use and civic knowledge. Societies are classified by the cosmopolitan characteristics of media landscapes in European countries, using the Norris and Inglehart (2009) Cosmopolitan Communications Index. The conclusion considers the implications of the results for understanding processes of political learning within European societies.

Keywords

Civic knowledge Mass media Cosmopolitanism Political communications 

„Denn Wer hat, dem wird gegeben“ – Zum Zusammenhang von Massenmedien und Wissenslücken

Zusammenfassung

Die wissenschaftliche Debatte über das politische Wissen der Bürger, die Fähigkeit des einfachen Mannes, rationale und fundierte Entscheidungen in einer Demokratie zu fällen und der Lerneffekt von Wählern in Wahlkampagnen hält weiterhin an. Ein verbreiteter Forschungsfokus zur Klärung dieser Sachverhalte konzentriert sich auf die Rolle von „Wissenslücken“, und verweist dabei darauf, dass jeder Erwachsene, der sich mit Hilfe der Medien weiterbildet, stark vom Stand seines formalen Bildungsniveau beeinflusst wird. Eine alternative Erklärung geht vom Prinzip des „lebenslangen Lernens“ aus, welches die Möglichkeit eröffnet, durch die Nutzung von Nachrichtenmedien die Informationslücken zu verringern, die sich aus der früheren Schulbildung ergeben. Zahlreiche Studien haben die Faktoren auf Individualebene untersucht, die mit dem politischen Wissen der Bürger in Zusammenhang stehen, einschließlich der Rolle unveränderbarer Merkmale wie Geschlecht oder ethnische Herkunft sowie sich langsam wandelnder Faktoren wie Bildung und Einkommen. Jedoch sind länderübergreifende Untersuchungen wichtig, da davon auszugehen ist, dass der erweiterte Kontext des Informationsumfeldes eine entscheidende Rolle bei der Gestaltung politischer Lernprozesse einnimmt; dabei sind kleinere Wissenslücken in weltoffeneren Gesellschaften zu erwarten, in welchen Kommunikationsströme leichter innerhalb und über nationale Grenzen hinweg fließen.

Um diese Sachverhalte zu klären, vergleicht diese Studie europäische Bürger, um zu prüfen, ob die Größe und die Verteilung von Wissenslücken sowohl durch die Bildung und Mediennutzung auf Individualebene als auch durch gesellschaftliche Prozesse der kosmopolitischen Kommunikation beeinflusst werden. Die Studie verwendet hierzu die Umfrage „European Parliament Election Study 2009“, welche die individuelle Nachrichtennutzung und das Staatsbürgerwissen erfasst. Die Gesellschaften werden auf Basis des Cosmopolitan Communications Index von Norris und Inglehart (2009) nach der Weltoffenheit der Medienlandschaft in europäischen Ländern eingeordnet. Die Schlussfolgerung betrachtet die Konsequenzen der Ergebnisse für das Verständnis der Prozesse des politischen Lernens in europäischen Gesellschaften.

Schlüsselwörter

Staatsbürgerwissen Massenmedien Kosmopolitismus Politische Kommunikation 

References

  1. Aalberg, Toril, and James Curran, eds. 2011. How media inform democracy: A comparative approach. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Baek, Mijeong. 2009. A comparative analysis of political communication systems and voter turnout. American Journal of Political Science 53 (2): 376–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bardoel, Johannes, and Leen d’Haenens. 2008. Reinventing public service broadcasting in Europe: Prospects, promises and problems. Media Culture & Society 30 (3): 337–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bennett, Stephen Earl, Richard S. Flickinger, John R. Baker, Staci L. Rhine, and Linda M. Bennett. 1996. Citizen’s knowledge of foreign affairs. The Harvard International Journal of Press-Politics 1 (2): 1–29.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, Angus, Philip Converse, Warren Miller, and Donald Stokes. 1960. The American voter. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  6. Chaffee, Steven H., and Joan Schleuder. 1986. Measurement and effects of attention to media news. Human Communication Research 13:76–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Converse, Philip. 1964. The nature of belief systems in mass publics. In Ideology and Discontent, ed. David E. Apter, 206–261. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  8. Converse, Philip. 1990. Popular representation and the distribution of information. In Information and democratic processes, eds. John A. Ferejohn and James H. Kuklinski, 369–390. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cook, Fay L., Lawrence R. Jacobs, and Dukhong Kim. 2010. Trusting what you know: Information, knowledge, and confidence in social security. Journal of Politics 72 (2): 397–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coromina, Luis, and Willem E. Saris. 2009. Quality of media use measurement. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 21 (4): 424–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Curran, James, Shanto Iyengar, Anker Brink Lund, and Inka Salovaara-Moring. 2009. Media system, public knowledge and semocracy: A comparative study. European Journal of Communication 24 (1): 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delli Carpini, Michael X., and Scott Keeter. 1993. Measuring political knowledge: Putting first things first. American Journal of Political Science 37 (4): 1179–1206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delli Carpini, Michael X., and Scott Keeter. 1996. What Americans know about politics and why it matters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dragomir, Marius, Dusan Reljic, and Mark Thompson, eds. 2005. Television across Europe: Regulation, policy and independence. Budapest: Open Society Institute.Google Scholar
  15. Dreher, Axel, Noel Gaston, and Pim Martens. 2008. Measuring globalisation: Gauging its consequences. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  16. EES. 2009. European Parliament Election Study 2009, Voter Study, Advance Release, 7/4/2010, www.piredeu.eu, N. 27,069.Google Scholar
  17. Freedom House. 2007. Global Press Freedom 2007. www.freedomhouse.org.
  18. Gallego, Aina. 2010. Understanding unequal turnout: Education and voting in comparative perspective. Electoral Studies 29 (2): 239–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gaziano, Cecile. 1997. Forecast 2000. Widening knowledge gaps. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 74:237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gibson, Rachel K., W. Lusoli, and Stephen Ward. 2005. Online in the UK: Testing a ‘contextualised’ model of internet effects. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 7 (2): 561–583.Google Scholar
  21. Gimpel, James G., Celeste Lay, and Jason E. Schuknecht. 2003. Cultivating democracy: Civic environments and political socialization in America. Washington: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  22. Graber, Doris. 2004. Mediated politics and citizenship in the twenty-first century. Annual Review of Psychology 55:545–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greenberg, Edward S., ed. 2009. Political socialization. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction.Google Scholar
  24. Grusec, Joan E., and Paul D. Hastings, eds. 2006. Handbook of socialization: Theory and research. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hallin, Daniel C., and Paolo Mancini. 2004. Comparing media systems: three models of media and politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hannerz, Ulf. 1990. Cosmopolitans and locals in world culture. In Global culture: Nationalism, globalization and modernity, ed. Mike Featherstone, 237–252. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Hayward, Tim. 1995. Info-rich, info-poor: Access and exchange in the global information society. New Providence: K. G. Saur.Google Scholar
  28. Holmberg, Sören. 2009. Candidate recognition in different electoral systems. In The comparative study of electoral systems, ed. Hans-Dieter Klingemann, 158–170. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hwang, Yoori, and Se-Hoon Jeong. 2009. Revisiting the knowledge gap hypothesis: A meta-analysis of thirty-five years of research. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 86 (3): 513–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Iyengar, Shanto, Kyu S. Hahn, Heinz Bonfadelli, and Mirko Marr. 2009. Dark areas of ignorance: Revisited comparing international affairs knowledge in Switzerland and the United States. Communication Research 36 (3): 341–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Iyengar, Shanto, James Curran, Anker Brink Lund, Inka Salovaara-Moring, Kyu S. Hahn, and Sharon Coen. 2010. Cross-national versus individual-level differences in political information: A media systems perspective. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 20 (3): 291–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jennings, M. Kent. 1996. Political knowledge over time and across generations. Public Opinion Quarterly 60 (2): 228–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jennings, M. Kent, Laura Stoker, and J. Bowers. 2009. Politics across generations: Family transmission reexamined. Journal of Politics 71 (3): 782–799.Google Scholar
  34. Kelly, Mary, Gianpietro Mazzoleni, and Denis McQuail. 2004. The Media in Europe. 3rd ed. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Lassen, David. 2005. The effect of information on voter turnout: Evidence from a natural experiment. American Journal of Political Science 49 (1): 103–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lupia, Arthur, and Mathew D. McCubbins. 1998. The democratic dilemma: Can citizens learn what they need to know? New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Martinelli, Kathleen, and Steven H. Chaffee. 1995. Measuring new-voter learning via three channels of political information. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 72 (1): 18–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCan, James A., and Chappell Lawson. 2006. Presidential campaigns and the knowledge gap in three transitional democracies. Political Research Quarterly 59 (1): 13–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McLeod, Douglas M., and Elizabeth M. Perse. 1994. Direct and indirect effects of socioeconomic status on public affairs knowledge. Journalism Quarterly 71 (2): 433–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Milner, Henry. 2002. Civic literacy: How informed citizens make democracy work. Medway: Tufts University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Milner, Henry, and Kimmo Gronlund. 2006. The determinants of political knowledge in comparative perspective. Scandinavian Political Studies 29 (4): 368–406.Google Scholar
  42. Mishler, William, and Richard Rose. 2002. Learning and re-learning regime support: The dynamics of post-communist regimes. European Journal of Political Research 41:5–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mondak, Jeffrey J. 1995. Newspapers and political awareness. American Journal of Political Science 39 (2): 513–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mondak, Jeffrey J. 2001. Developing valid knowledge scales. American Journal of Political Science 45 (1): 224–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mondak, Jeffrey J., and Belinda Creel. 2001. Asked and answered. Knowledge levels when we will not take ‘do not know’ for an answer. Journal of Politics 23:199–224.Google Scholar
  46. Neuman, W. Russel. 1974. Political Knowledge—Comparison of Impact of Print and Broadcast News Media. Public Opinion Quarterly 38 (3): 444–445.Google Scholar
  47. Norris, Pippa. 2000. A virtuous circle. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Norris, Pippa. 2001. Digital divide. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Norris, Pippa. 2009. Comparing political communications: Common frameworks or Babelian confusion? Government and Opposition 44 (3): 321–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Norris, Pippa, and Christina Holtz-Bacha. 2001. To entertain, inform and educate: Still the role of public television in the 1990s? Political Communications 18 (2): 123–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. 2009. Cosmopolitan communications. Cultural diversity in a globalized world. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Norris, Pippa, John Curtice, David Sanders, Maggie Scammell, and Holli Semetko. 1999. On message: Communicating the campaign. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Palfrey, Thomas, and Keith Poole. 1987. The relationship between information, ideology, and voting behavior. American Journal of Political Science 31 (3): 511–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Price, Vince, and John Zaller. 1993. Who gets the news—Alternative measures of news reception and their implications for research. Public Opinion Quarterly 57 (2): 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Prior, Marcus. 2009. The immensely inflated news audience: Assessing bias in self-reported news exposure. Public Opinion Quarterly 73 (1): 130–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Robinson, John P., and Mark R. Levy. 1986. The main source: Learning from TV news. Beverley Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  57. Sanders, David, and Pippa Norris. 2007. Message or medium? In Real research: Conducting and evaluating research in the social sciences, ed. Loreen Wolfer. New York: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  58. Sears, David O. 1975. Political socialization. In Handbook of political science, eds. Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby, 93–153. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  59. Shehata, Adam, and Jasper Stromback. 2011. A matter of context: A comparative study of media environments and news consumption gaps in Europe. Political Communication 28 (1): 110–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sherrod, Lonnie R., Judith Torney-Purta, and Constance Flanagan, eds. 2010. Handbook of research on civic engagement in youth. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stauffer, John, Richard Frost, and William Rybolt. 1981. Recall and learning from broadcast news: Is print better? Journal of Broadcasting 25:253–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stromback, Jesper, and Adam Shehata. 2010. Media malaise or a virtuous circle? Exploring the causal relationships between news media exposure, political news attention and political interest. European Journal of Political Research 49 (5): 575–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. The Pew Center for The People and The Press. 2007. What Americans know: 1989–2007. Public knowledge of current affairs little changed by news and information revolutions. http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/319.pdf. Accessed 4 July 2012.
  64. Tichenor, Philip J., George A. Donohue, and Clarice N. Olien. 1970. Mass media flow and differential growth in knowledge. Public Opinion Quarterly 43 (2): 159–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tomlinson, John. 1999. Globalization and culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  66. Trappel, Josef, Hannu Nieminen, and Lars Nord, eds. 2011. The media for democracy monitor. A cross national study of leading news media. Goteborg: Nordicom.Google Scholar
  67. Verba, Sidney, Key L. Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady. 1995. Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Vertovec, Steven, and Robin Cohen, eds. 2002. Conceiving cosmopolitanism: Theory, context and practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  69. de Vreese, Claes H., and Hajo Boomgaarden. 2006. News, political knowledge and participation: The differential effects of news media exposure on political knowledge and participation. Acta Politica 41 (4): 317–341.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John F. Kennedy School of GovernmentCambridgeUSA12286_2012_130_Fig1_Print.eps

Personalised recommendations