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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  Respondents were also asked to specify whether more, less, or the same governmental effort should be expended in seven different forms of environmental protection. 17 Not only does each set of questions correspond directly to a policy-specific knowledge item, but the deficit item should be at least indirectly relevant for the questions dealing with defense spending and environmental policy as well: both deal with activities of the federal government (the deficit question reveals knowledge about the federal government), and the defense question deals with levels of government spending. Table 3 reveals that, after controlling for levels of general political knowledge, individual-level information effects were generally smaller among respondents in possession of relevant policy- specific knowledge. Moreover, these information effects did not tend to be significantly smaller for people with policy-specific knowledge that was clearly unrelated to the questions being answered. For instance, correct knowledge of candidate stances on abortion was associated with smaller information effects in the abortion question, but not for any of the other questions. There are also a few exceptions to the rule: knowing where the parties stood on defense spending was related to smaller information effects in the defense spending question, the abortion question, and one of the environmental questions. It also predicted larger effects in one of the fiscal questions. A small amount of overlap like this is expected, since the logic behind a general measure of political knowledge is that people who know something about one aspect of politics should also know things about other aspects of politics. However, the general pattern in table 3 is clear cut: policy-specific knowledge exerts a consistent and independent influence on the size of information effects produced by uneven levels of general political knowledge. Even in cases where more than one type of policy- specific knowledge is shown to significantly influence the size of information effects, the correlations for the more directly relevant knowledge item are always larger than for the more distantly related item. No, don’t favor) Do you favor increases in taxes paid by ordinary Americans in order to cut the federal budget deficit? (Yes, favor; No, don’t favor).” 17 The environmental questions appeared in a series that was worded as follows: “Now I am going to ask you what you think of the government's current activities in various areas of environmental policy. In each case, just tell me whether you think the government should put less, the same amount, or more effort into that area than it does now. Do you think the government should put less, the same amount, or more effort into <reducing air pollution>?” The same stem was used for each question, which differed only in the target activity mentioned (the full list of these activities is shown in table 3).

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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Respondents were also asked to specify whether more, less, or the same governmental effort should
be expended in seven different forms of environmental protection.
17
Not only does each set of
questions correspond directly to a policy-specific knowledge item, but the deficit item should be at
least indirectly relevant for the questions dealing with defense spending and environmental policy as
well: both deal with activities of the federal government (the deficit question reveals knowledge
about the federal government), and the defense question deals with levels of government spending.
Table 3 reveals that, after controlling for levels of general political knowledge, individual-level
information effects were generally smaller among respondents in possession of relevant policy-
specific knowledge. Moreover, these information effects did not tend to be significantly smaller for
people with policy-specific knowledge that was clearly unrelated to the questions being answered.
For instance, correct knowledge of candidate stances on abortion was associated with smaller
information effects in the abortion question, but not for any of the other questions. There are also a
few exceptions to the rule: knowing where the parties stood on defense spending was related to
smaller information effects in the defense spending question, the abortion question, and one of the
environmental questions. It also predicted larger effects in one of the fiscal questions. A small
amount of overlap like this is expected, since the logic behind a general measure of political
knowledge is that people who know something about one aspect of politics should also know things
about other aspects of politics. However, the general pattern in table 3 is clear cut: policy-specific
knowledge exerts a consistent and independent influence on the size of information effects produced
by uneven levels of general political knowledge. Even in cases where more than one type of policy-
specific knowledge is shown to significantly influence the size of information effects, the
correlations for the more directly relevant knowledge item are always larger than for the more
distantly related item.
No, don’t favor) Do you favor increases in taxes paid by ordinary Americans in order to cut the federal budget
deficit? (Yes, favor; No, don’t favor).”
17 The environmental questions appeared in a series that was worded as follows: “Now I am going to ask you
what you think of the government's current activities in various areas of environmental policy. In each case, just tell
me whether you think the government should put less, the same amount, or more effort into that area than it does
now. Do you think the government should put less, the same amount, or more effort into <reducing air pollution>?”
The same stem was used for each question, which differed only in the target activity mentioned (the full list of these
activities is shown in table 3).


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