Political knowledge: A comparative perspective

Date of Completion

January 2001


Political Science, General




This dissertation looks at the impact of several independent variables on the degree of knowledge of the European Union. We used Eurobarometer Data from 1996. The universe for this survey were persons aged 15 and over residing in the 15 member nations of the European Union. The survey included ten questions concerning political knowledge thus providing an eleven point scale. ^ In general, we found the same pattern of political knowledge concerning the EU in all 15 countries of the EU. Looking at the impact of the independent variables on political knowledge, we saw a gap of the impact of education between employed and unemployed respondents in each country. Employment status, too, had an impact, with employed respondents who had more education getting more out of their education when it comes to political knowledge. Income, too, was a significant variable in most countries. Gender on the other hand was not seen to be a variable with an impact. Looking at media use, we saw newspaper use to be the most influential media in almost all countries. The same applies to news on the radio. The picture of television news showed to be less consistent which corresponds with the disagreement that we found in past research. In one country, Spain, use of news on television had a significantly negative impact on political knowledge, in Austria, the Benelux countries, France, and Greece the impact was insignificant, in all other countries, the more often people watch news on television, the higher their degree of knowledge. ^ Looking at interest in the EU, we saw that at first sight interest correlates heavily with political knowledge. However, we saw dramatic changes once we included interest not only as a dummy variable but also as a variables that lets us see different slopes. Then many variables dropped to insignificance. ^ Finally, we looked at one systemic variable, namely postmaterialism. We found it to correlate positively with political knowledge, which means that countries where citizens show a higher support for postmaterialist items, also show a higher degree of knowledge. ^