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Fall Into the (Knowledge) Gap: An Examination of the Political Knowledge of Adolescents in Co-Educational and Single Sex Environments
Unformatted Document Text:  indicate that they are not watching news and public affairs programs. Further, extensive television watching may signal a general loss of interest in school as well as a lack of political interest (Niemi and Junn 1998), resulting in lowered levels of political knowledge (Niemi and Junn 1998; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996). The research conclusions on family influences are not unanimous, however. Niemi and Junn (1998) find no single factor in the home environment to be overwhelmingly important, though all were significant. On the other hand, Dolan (1995) concludes that neither family structure nor the presence of a father, nor any important change such as a death or divorce in the family is significantly related to levels of political knowledge. Finally, individual attributes constitute another class of variables. In a sense, the characteristics that comprise this category are ones that, had we sufficient data, could probably be trace to family and school. Because of the nature of the data, we treat the orientations of efficacy and interest, as well as the sex and race of the student, as personal qualities. The association between political interest and political knowledge is well established (Bartels 1996, Converse 2000, Delli Carpini and Keeter 1989, Luskin 1990) and recent work finds that interest is exogenous to knowledge (Tilley, Sturgis and Allum 2004). People who report that they follow politics are more likely to know about any aspect of politics – national or local – than are those who do not pay attention. Internal political efficacy refers to the belief that one can influence the political process as the result of one’s own abilities. Without sufficient sense of efficacy, it is not rational to make the effort to learn about government or make the effort to influence decision-makers. Efficacy has been linked to a number of political orientations (Easton and Dennis 1969; Hess and Torney 1967; Verba, Schlozman, Brady 1995; Verba, Burns and Schlozman 1997), and Delli Carpini and Keeter (1989) find a strong link between it and political knowledge. Race is another important factor. Studies show that it affects level of political knowledge in adults (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1989) as well as in adolescents (Niemi and Junn 1998). The disparity between whites and blacks persists even after taking all other factors into account. Delli and Carpini (1989) find that blacks are significantly less knowledgeable than nonblacks on foreign policy, economic policy, and general political 6

Authors: Prough, Elizabeth. and Herring, Mary.
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indicate that they are not watching news and public affairs programs. Further, extensive
television watching may signal a general loss of interest in school as well as a lack of
political interest (Niemi and Junn 1998), resulting in lowered levels of political
knowledge (Niemi and Junn 1998; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996). The research
conclusions on family influences are not unanimous, however. Niemi and Junn (1998)
find no single factor in the home environment to be overwhelmingly important, though
all were significant. On the other hand, Dolan (1995) concludes that neither family
structure nor the presence of a father, nor any important change such as a death or
divorce in the family is significantly related to levels of political knowledge.
Finally, individual attributes constitute another class of variables. In a sense, the
characteristics that comprise this category are ones that, had we sufficient data, could
probably be trace to family and school. Because of the nature of the data, we treat the
orientations of efficacy and interest, as well as the sex and race of the student, as personal
qualities.
The association between political interest and political knowledge is well
established (Bartels 1996, Converse 2000, Delli Carpini and Keeter 1989, Luskin 1990)
and recent work finds that interest is exogenous to knowledge (Tilley, Sturgis and Allum
2004). People who report that they follow politics are more likely to know about any
aspect of politics – national or local – than are those who do not pay attention.
Internal political efficacy refers to the belief that one can influence the political
process as the result of one’s own abilities. Without sufficient sense of efficacy, it is not
rational to make the effort to learn about government or make the effort to influence
decision-makers. Efficacy has been linked to a number of political orientations (Easton
and Dennis 1969; Hess and Torney 1967; Verba, Schlozman, Brady 1995; Verba, Burns
and Schlozman 1997), and Delli Carpini and Keeter (1989) find a strong link between it
and political knowledge.
Race is another important factor. Studies show that it affects level of political
knowledge in adults (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1989) as well as in adolescents (Niemi and
Junn 1998). The disparity between whites and blacks persists even after taking all other
factors into account. Delli and Carpini (1989) find that blacks are significantly less
knowledgeable than nonblacks on foreign policy, economic policy, and general political
6


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