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Improving the political judgement of citizens: why the task environment matters

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Internal political efficacy (that is, beliefs about one’s ability to process and participate effectively in politics) is known to be shaped by factors such as levels of interest in politics, trust in institutions and awareness of political developments and debates. In this article, we show that the task environment also has an impact on internal political efficacy, and that little research has been done on this issue. We draw on data from focus groups in Australia, where citizens were asked to make political judgements in contrasting task environments: state elections and the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite. We examine four features of task environments: framing choice; issue content; the nature of available cues; and whether the task environment stimulates cognitive effort. We conclude that concerns about the internal political efficacy of voters should be addressed by exploring how the task environment created for political choice might be made more amenable in order to improve the political judgement of citizens.
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Keywords: citizenship; elections; internal political efficacy; political judgement; political participation; referendums; voting behaviour

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen, The Netherlands 2: University of Southampton, UK and University of Canberra, Australia

Publication date: July 2020

This article was made available online on April 3, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Improving the political judgement of citizens: why the task environment matters".

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