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Research Article Open Access

Does the Media Have Some Explaining to Do? Distinguishing Between the Effects of Acquired and Applied Knowledget on Public Opinion of the National Debt

Abstract

Does acquiring facts about political issues necessarily give individuals the information they need to create an opinion about support for public policy? This study seeks to refine the effects of political knowledge on public opinion, differentiating between types of information that do and do not elicit opinion change. We distinguish two categories of political knowledge: acquired knowledge, a surface awareness of factual information, and applied knowledge, knowledge that can be transferred to new concepts and beliefs. Using a survey experiment and information about the amount of the national debt as a test issue, we find modest support for the hypothesis that political knowledge is more likely to affect the opinions of those individuals who can apply the information to a political context than the opinions of those individuals unable to apply information to political realities. The implication of this study suggests that media explanations of some complex political issues are necessary in order to move public opinion.

Jennifer Ogg Anderson1 and Stephen T Crook2

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