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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  Another pattern worth noting in table 3 is the variable impact of policy-specific knowledge on information effects in relevant questions. For instance, the independent effect of deficit knowledge is greater for the two fiscal questions mentioning spending cuts than for the other fiscal questions. These are also the only fiscal questions in which the size of information effects is related to knowledge about environmental stances taken by the parties and candidates. Knowing party and candidate environmental stances has fairly uniform associations with information effects in all the environmental questions, but knowing the deficit went down has a less consistent impact on information effects for these questions. The impact of policy-specific knowledge may therefore depend on whether and how people associate that knowledge with the attitudes they report in opinion surveys. These findings confirm that information effects can arise from deficits in either policy-specific knowledge, or general political knowledge, or both. As a consequence, information effects in collective preferences can vary in size depending on the social distribution of policy-specific information. When relevant policy-specific knowledge is available even to respondents who appear ill-informed on scales of general political knowledge, differences in general knowledge will matter less to the shape of collective preferences. <B> The Relative Salience of Political Issues Information effects are also related to differences between more- and less-knowledgeable citizens in the salience of political issues. Issue salience, as I use it here, is meant broadly as a catchall term to encompass a variety of related concepts, such as issue involvement (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995) , the perceived importance, novelty, or personal relevance of issues, or simply that some issues come more readily to mind than others (Higgins 1996) . The more salient an issue or topic, the more motivated a respondent should be to answer a survey question about that topic using systematic processing (Krosnick and Fabrigar forthcoming) . Evidence supporting this conclusion is widespread in the literature. Questions dealing with topics having high salience to respondents tend to have lower levels of DK/NO responses than questions on

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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Another pattern worth noting in table 3 is the variable impact of policy-specific knowledge on
information effects in relevant questions. For instance, the independent effect of deficit knowledge is
greater for the two fiscal questions mentioning spending cuts than for the other fiscal questions.
These are also the only fiscal questions in which the size of information effects is related to
knowledge about environmental stances taken by the parties and candidates. Knowing party and
candidate environmental stances has fairly uniform associations with information effects in all the
environmental questions, but knowing the deficit went down has a less consistent impact on
information effects for these questions. The impact of policy-specific knowledge may therefore
depend on whether and how people associate that knowledge with the attitudes they report in opinion
surveys.
These findings confirm that information effects can arise from deficits in either policy-specific
knowledge, or general political knowledge, or both. As a consequence, information effects in
collective preferences can vary in size depending on the social distribution of policy-specific
information. When relevant policy-specific knowledge is available even to respondents who appear
ill-informed on scales of general political knowledge, differences in general knowledge will matter
less to the shape of collective preferences.
<B>
The Relative Salience of Political Issues
Information effects are also related to differences between more- and less-knowledgeable
citizens in the salience of political issues. Issue salience, as I use it here, is meant broadly as a
catchall term to encompass a variety of related concepts, such as issue involvement
(Verba,
Schlozman, and Brady 1995)
, the perceived importance, novelty, or personal relevance of issues, or
simply that some issues come more readily to mind than others
(Higgins 1996)
.
The more salient an issue or topic, the more motivated a respondent should be to answer a
survey question about that topic using systematic processing
(Krosnick and Fabrigar forthcoming)
.
Evidence supporting this conclusion is widespread in the literature. Questions dealing with topics
having high salience to respondents tend to have lower levels of DK/NO responses than questions on


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