The Tough Decision to Remove Political Knowledge from the CSES Module 5
By Elisabeth Gidengil and Elizabeth Zechmeister
Political information questions will be absent from the CSES core module for the first time with the 5th installment of the CSES module. The CSES Planning Committee’s Political Knowledge Subcommittee reached this decision despite shared agreement that political knowledge is a venerated workhorse in the field of voter choice. Differences exist among those high and low in political knowledge in numerous domains, such as economic voting behavior and the use of heuristic aids in voting decisions (though exceptions exist). Given the significance of this concept to scholars of political behavior, voting, and elections, we have some explaining to do.
Evaluation of Past CSES Political Knowledge Batteries
The first task of the Political Knowledge Subcommittee was to evaluate the effectiveness of past political knowledge modules as comparative indicators of political sophistication in the CSES project. We first considered the degree to which previous modules had resulted in sufficient variation in scores within countries to allow for meaningful analysis. Delli Carpini and Keeter (1993) recommend that the level of difficulty vary between 30% and 70% correct answers on the items to be included in a political knowledge index in order to achieve sufficient differentiation.
The first three CSES modules sought to achieve adequate variation by instructing local investigators to select one question that two thirds would answer correctly, one question that half would answer correctly and one question that only one third would answer correctly. This approach was deemed a failure (Elff 2009). In module 2, for example, only seven countries achieved the desired distribution of correct answers. Continue reading “The Tough Decision to Remove Political Knowledge from the CSES Module 5”