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Title:Political knowledge and social media use in the digital media system
Author(s):Britzman, Kylee Jo
Director of Research:Althaus, Scott
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Althaus, Scott
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Kuklinski, James; Mondak, Jeffery; Tewksbury, David
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Political knowledge
Social media
Objective knowledge
Subjective knowledge
Abstract:My dissertation explores how social media exposure affects political knowledge among the American public. Political knowledge is central to any understanding of citizen competence, yet key questions remain about how to best increase citizens’ information levels. My dissertation project assesses to what extent the dramatic rise in social media use has influenced how people receive, evaluate, and respond to information about politics. Previous research contends that although information about politics is increasingly accessible and available, the overall levels and social distribution of political knowledge within the American public has remained stable. However, the conception of political knowledge used most frequently in political science focuses on knowledge about the operation of government and key political players, which is only one of several types of political knowledge that citizens might possess. My research begins with the premise that certain media types may be better or worse at facilitating learning of different types of knowledge, of which the familiar political science variety is only one. I introduce a knowledge typology that focuses on both knowledge content and type. In terms of knowledge content, most political behavior studies rely on a civics measure of knowledge (i.e. individuals’ understandings about what the government is). In addition to civics knowledge, this project also measures and tests current events knowledge (i.e. individuals’ understandings about what the government does). Even more importantly, the knowledge typology introduces subjective political knowledge as a distinct type of knowledge that individuals possess. Subjective political knowledge encompasses people’s perceptions about what they think they know about politics and their knowledge certainty. Assessing the relationship between objective and subjective political knowledge demonstrates that, although related, these knowledge types are not identical to one another. In an increasingly fragmented and polarized information environment, where people rely on sources like social media for political information, the assumed relationships between media exposure and political knowledge may no longer hold. Using survey and experimental data, I demonstrate that exposure to political information via social media platforms like Facebook can increase specific types of knowledge like subjective political knowledge, while having less of an impact on objective political knowledge. Ultimately this project introduces new types of knowledge and demonstrates how the rise of social media has important effects on people’s apparent levels of political knowledge.
Issue Date:2018-04-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Kylee Britzman
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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