The Psychology of Civic Learning
Citizen knowledge is important to the democratic polity, being related to, among other things, political tolerance and efficacy, political participation, and the ability to consistently connect policy views to meaningful political evaluations. However, a large body of research concludes that citizens possess low levels of factual knowledge about government and politics. Moreover, while traditional models — grounded in the normative logic of democratic theory — suggest that political learning is an active and rational process, recent research on heuristics and affect complicates these assumptions. This chapter argues that in order to advance our understanding of political knowledge, it is necessary to integrate five principal areas of research: the traditional model, heuristic models, impression-driven models, affect-based models, and models of operative knowledge.
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