Sunday, January 25, 2009

Education has always been a powerful predictor of what people know about public affairs. A study I missed somehow from a couple of years ago probes this relation ship and find some interesting stuff. As the authors note:

Our analysis has shown that the relationship between education and knowledge varies along with changes in the information environment. Increases in newspaper coverage primarily benefit the highly educated, thereby reinforcing the relationship between education and knowledge. By contrast, increases in the volume of television coverage benefit the least educated, in absolute terms, almost as much as the most educated.
We've known this from other studies, that TV helps most those who know little about politics and public affairs. But the above study, from a 2006 issue of American Journal of Political Science (volume 50, 266-282), goes into great detail, the kind that suggests we may now have a growing information underclass.

How do we fix this? How about providing more information? Nope. The authors write:

Simply providing more information is likely to reinforce the knowledge gap that exists between people with low and high levels of education.
In other words, no help there. The less educated -- those who have little motivation to keep up with public affairs or little ability to do so -- gravitate toward the spoonful of sugar of TV news, if they consume any news at all. Many use TV as a means of escaping any news content, thanks to hundreds of channels available via cable and satellite. And any TV news they do get, especially the crap on local tv news, won't do them much good when it comes to having a clue about politics and public affairs.

Cable news, CNN and Fox and all the rest, aren't much better. As newspapers die, I'm afraid for many, so will political knowledge.

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