Monday, 10 March 2003

Warblogging break; on political sophistication

I've decided to take the week off from blogging about the war and politics (mainly because I'm on vacation anyway).

The good news is that I will still be posting some content to the blog. I'm going to brainstorm a chapter of my dissertation online in an effort to nail down a definition of “political sophistication,” and to think about the best way to measure it.

Political sophistication is one of the concepts that lurks out there in the study of public opinion; it basically originates from the desire of rational choice scholars to come up with a summary measure of a person's political savvy, without getting inside the nasty psychological “black box.” We generally hypothesize that people with higher levels of political sophistication think about politics in different ways than the less sophisticated; they use information differently than the less sophisticated when making political decisions (for example, when evaluating candidates and voting).

There is some debate over how different political sophistication and political knowledge are; most contemporary studies treat political knowledge as a proxy for sophistication, if not an exact equivalent. There are some other debates too, which I'll probably touch on later in the week.