Increased media choice and political knowledge gaps: A comparative longitudinal study of 18 established democracies 1995-2015
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionPolitical Communication. 2021, 1-20. 10.1080/10584609.2020.1868633
We investigate the often-stated, but disputed claim in the political science and political communication literature that increasing media choice widens inequalities in political knowledge. The assumption is that in a high-choice media environment, the politically interested will consume more news while the uninterested will avoid such content, leading, in turn, to widening differences in political knowledge. Although previous studies show that high media choice increases political knowledge gaps in the United States, comparative longitudinal evidence is currently lacking. To fill this gap, we draw on data from four rounds of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems. Overall, we do not find general support for the high-choice knowledge gap thesis. In most countries, there is no indication that inequality in political knowledge has increased over time. Building on recent insights from political communication research, we question key assumptions of the high choice knowledge gap thesis.