I've always been fascinated by the tension between being informed and feeling informed. In other words, lots of people think they're politically informed when, by most objective standards, they're not.
In psychology you'll find concepts like tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon or feeling of knowing. These are kinda cool but they don't really apply to political knowledge, except maybe in rare cases. They are often situations where you know an answer but can't quite dig it out of your brain and provide it (yeah, getting older here, see this more often).
Self efficacy or, from the political science folks, internal efficacy, do a better job of capturing what I mean. Broadly speaking, these have to do with a sense of competence. Do I feel adequate in keeping up with the complexities of public affairs and politics.
Most people say, yeah. But a lot don't.
Since 1948 there's been a slow, slight decline in how people answer whether politics is too complicated for them. About of third of U.S. voters now agree it's too complicated.
But I've never been happy with internal efficacy as a measure of perceived knowledge. Related concepts, but distinct. Or at least I think so. I've used internal efficacy in my own research as a surrogate of perceived knowledge, which to me is more particular, more specific, getting at an estimate of how much information one has about a candidate or campaign or the political world at large. Internal efficacy is broader, more about one's overall capacity to make sense of the world. I might have low perceived knowledge on something, but I could be damn confident in my efficacy at finding stuff out and becoming informed.
An Aside: yes, this is getting kinda PhDweebish and doesn't' have anything to do with McCain, Obama, or who they choose as vice presidents. Like everyone else I'm waiting to hear the news, though it almost never matters who the VP is in the long run.
OK, Hollander, but so what? If people feel informed, if they sense they are adequately informed, then they will be less likely to attend to the news, to the media, to new information. They're full. And certain media can create this sense of being full, kinda like empty calories from a soft drink, and not eat their veggies (i.e., news). That's the consequence: people will fill up on empty, funny, silly stuff and feel informed when, perhaps, they're not.