News consumption of political stories not enough to retain political knowledge

September 25, 2012

A strong democracy depends on smart voters who choose their leaders based on their knowledge of important political issues. One of the ways that Americans learn about politics is by following the news. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Journalism have found that simply following the news is not enough.

A panel survey involving more than 1,200 teenagers from 12 to 17 years of age found that adolescents learn more about politics when they think and talk about what they read or watch on the news. Edson Tandoc, a doctoral student at MU, found that adolescents who spend more time thinking and talking about the news with their peers and relatives tend to know more about political developments in the country.

"This is important because an individual's political identity begins long before one is eligible to vote," Tandoc said. "Our political identity is not shaped overnight and so it is important to start molding our future voters while they are still young."

Tandoc and his adviser, Esther Thorson, a professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the MU School of Journalism, analyzed two surveys conducted six months apart. The first survey, conducted six months before the 2008 presidential elections, asked teenagers how frequently they followed the news, how much they thought about the news, and how often they discussed political news with their peers and relatives. The second survey conducted right after the elections asked the same teenagers several questions about politics to measure their levels of political knowledge.

What Tandoc found is that news consumption does not directly lead to political knowledge. Instead, news consumption leads to thinking about the news which then leads to engagement in discussions about the news, which finally ends with political learning.

"Engaging teenagers in the political process is vital for the future of democracy," Tandoc said. "Our study shows that if parents and educators want to increase political knowledge and action among younger generations, it is important to involve them in discussions about what they are reading in the news. Just giving them a story to read is not enough. Teenagers need to be able to think through and talk about political issues in order to retain knowledge about them."
-end-
Tandoc and Thorson presented the results of their study during the Association for Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Chicago last month.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Politics Articles from Brightsurf:

Fashion's underappreciated role in presidential politics
New research reveals style plays an underappreciated role in presidential politics and has meaningful consequences for presidential power.

'Lazy use' of term populist has helped to legitimize far-right politics
New analysis from academics at the University of Bath into the media's use of the term 'populism' highlights how its overuse has clouded important debates about nationalism, racism, and xenophobia.

Justice for all: How race and American identity may affect politics
New Penn State research examined whether feeling like you belong in America -- or not -- affected how members of different races and ethnicities participated in politics.

Women quotas in politics have unintended consequences
Women continue to be scarce in the halls of power.

The use of jargon kills people's interest in science, politics
When scientists and others use their specialized jargon terms while communicating with the general public, the effects are much worse than just making what they're saying hard to understand.

Stressed out: Americans making themselves sick over politics
Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed for a new study said politics is stressing them out, and 4% -- the equivalent of 10 million US adults -- reported suicidal thoughts related to politics.

Study: Children are interested in politics but need better education from parents and schools
The 2020 election is approaching -- how should we talk with children about this election and about politics more broadly?

Forget 'Obamageddon', 'prepping' is now part of mainstream US politics and culture
Criminologist Dr. Michael Mills challenges the traditional view that US 'preppers' are motivated by extreme right-wing or apocalyptic views.

Study examines how picture books introduce kids to politics
Meagan Patterson of the University of Kansas has authored a study in which she analyzed political messages in some of the most popular picture books of the last several years to see how political topics are introduced to children.

US abortion politics: How did we get here and where are we headed?
After Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement accelerated rapidly, describes Munson in a new paper, 'Protest and Religion: The US Pro-Life Movement,' published last week in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Read More: Politics News and Politics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.