The Role of Political Sophistication in the Decision-Making Processes of Voters

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Lawrence, Christopher Neil (2003) The Role of Political Sophistication in the Decision-Making Processes of Voters. thesis.

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Abstract:Since the origination of the scientific study of voting behavior in the 1950s
and 1960s, political scientists have developed several models of voting behavior.
As those models were tested empirically, scholars were faced with a seeming
contradiction: while voters in general are poorly-informed about politics, they
nonetheless are capable of making voting decisions that are consistent with their
fully informed preferences.
Lodge, Stroh and Wahlke (1990) posited that none of these preexisting models
could adequately explain voter behavior, because they failed to explain the mechanisms
that led to voters’ decisions. However, relatively few studies have been
done to understand how these mechanisms work, and the areas of research that
have attempted to explain these mechanisms have generally been seen as lacking
methodological rigor. In more recent years, scholars have looked at the use of
heuristics and affect as “cognitive shortcuts,” but have generally failed to provide
a compelling explanation of how and when voters can make use of them, beyond
demonstrating that they appear to do so.
In particular, relatively little attention has been paid to the question of which
heuristics are available to particular voters. While the use of heuristics is generally
considered to be an individual-level phenomenon, we should expect that various
groups of voters should process information in similar ways. In particular, it is
reasonable to believe that voters who are more aware of politics can draw upon
more sources of information when making evaluations, while less sophisticated
voters are more limited in their ability to draw inferences due to their lack of knowledge.
This dissertation demonstrateshowvoters make use of political information and
heuristic devices in different ways based primarily on their their level of political
sophistication–their ability to comprehend and apply political information when
evaluating issues or making voting decisions.
Item Type:Thesis
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/publications/61251
Official URL:http://www.lordsutch.com/chris/papers/dissertation.pdf
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