Research in Comparative Politics Workshop: Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro

  • Starts: 1:00 pm on Wednesday, October 10, 2018
  • Ends: 2:30 pm on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Speaker: Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Brown University. Her research examines the quality of representation and government accountability in Latin America. Her current projects include a field experiment on bureaucratic performance and public opinion studies of political sophistication and citizen attitudes towards corruption. Her book, Curbing Clientelism in Argentina: Politics, Poverty, and Social Policy, was published with Cambridge University Press (2014) and received the Donna Lee Van Cott Award from the Political Institutions Section of the Latin American Studies Association. She has published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics in Latin America, Latin American Research Review, and Latin American Politics and Society.

Abstract: What do citizens of lower and middle income democracies need to know about politics and how should that knowledge be assessed and quantified? Scholars of American politics generally rely on an additive index of responses to a short series of factual questions in order to measure political knowledge. In contrast, for scholars of democratic politics outside of the United States (and the long-standing wealthy democracies more generally), there has been no clear consensus regarding what citizens need to know or how to measure that knowledge. In this paper, we argue that the nature of political life in lower and middle-income democracies calls for a revised approach to conceptualizing and measuring political knowledge. We point to two shortcomings of existing approaches to measuring political knowledge. First, existing knowledge batteries do not include questions on the informal practices, institutions, and actors that are central to political life in many parts of the world. Second, existing knowledge batteries treat citizens exclusively as decision-makers, ignoring their role as potential claimants of rights from the state. On the basis of these critiques, we suggest some approaches for developing more valid measures of political knowledge for lower and middle-income democracies.

154 Bay State Road, Eilts Room

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