The Political Knowledge Gap in the New Media Environment: Evidence from Spain


Anduiza, E., Gallego, A. & Jorba, L. (2009). The Political Knowledge Gap in the New Media Environment: Evidence from Spain. Prepared for the seminar Citizen Politics: Are the New Media Reshaping Political Engagement? Barcelona, May 28th-30th 2009. Barcelona: IGOP.

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Type of work: Communication




knowledge gap


The availability of media and the possibilities of content selection have risen dramatically with the expansion of the new media. There are contradicting expectations regarding the impact of this process of choice expansion on the population’s political knowledge. Some authors argue that increasing media choice is resulting in a widening knowledge gap. Those with many cognitive abilities can benefit more from the increased information supply and those who are politically interested have many means to learn about politics while the uninterested skip political information and turn more and more ignorant about political affairs. A more optimistic point of view is that increasing media and content choices provide opportunities for political learning to the uninterested in politics and some of them may make use of these opportunities, thus closing the knowledge gaps. In this paper we analyze the knowledge gap related to education and to motivation in Spain, with a focus on how this gap is affected by media use. We find that frequent Internet users are more knowledgeable about politics than non users. Well-educated Internet users learn more when they use the Internet than the less-educated users. In that regard, the political knowledge gap related to education might be growing with the introduction of new technologies. However, the knowledge gap between the interested and uninterested is smaller for frequent Internet users than for non-users. These findings provide a complex picture and contradict the pessimistic theory about the impact of increasing media choice on political knowledge.


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