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What voters have and what voters need: the relation between public opinion and political knowledge

Johns, Robert (2003) What voters have and what voters need: the relation between public opinion and political knowledge. Revue de la Maison française d'Oxford, 1 (1). pp. 47-68. ISSN 1477-3082

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This article is directly concerned with political knowledge and public opinion, the key question being whether and which voters have the types and levels of opinion and knowledge for voting according to standard theories of representative democracy. This work's bearing on representation and democracy is indirect, and so the few assertions and many implications about these themes are necessarily vaguer and more debatable. However, it is hoped that some of the evidence offered here will help to drag the attention of researchers in such fields back to the problems with many of their fundamental assumptions (even if this does involve some jarring cognitive dissonance). The empirical testing uses data from the Belgian Election Study from 1991,[1] and particular attention is paid to the difference between the two principal communities in the country: French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders.[2] The statistical technique of analysis used is loglinear modelling with latent variables, which is discussed briefly in an Appendix.