The Effects of Public News on Political Knowledge

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This study investigates further the relationship between exposure to specific news media outlets and changes in political knowledge in France. Previous studies have been conducted in the United-States and demonstrated that citizens gain their political knowledge more through reading newspapers than watching television. However, unlike the United-States, France owns a strong public broadcasting system. This paper aims to investigate whether the findings would be the same in France. It provides new insights on political knowledge regarding the use of French news media. Drawing on the European Parliament Election 2009 voters Study, it examines the ability of the news media to supply political information to the public and analyzes its relation with political knowledge. The difference between public and commercial channels in providing political knowledge is considered. Although the literature is divided, the findings indicate that both the use of broadsheet newspapers and television news are positively related to political knowledge. The public broadcasting service leads to higher level of political knowledge in comparison with the commercial one.

Key words: Television use; newspaper use; public broadcasting service; political knowledge.

According to Jerit, Barabas and Bolsen (2006), “in a democracy, knowledge is power”. Indeed, political knowledge is a prerequisite to ensure a quality citizenship in a healthy democracy (De Vreese, Claes & Boomgaarden, 2006). Likewise, Berelson (1952) defines the ideal democratic citizen as “well informed about political affairs”. In order to be an active citizen, it is necessary to be knowledgeable and informed about politics (Le Hay et al., 2011). Indeed, information leads t...

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