Political Knowledge and Policy Representation in the States

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Political knowledge is central to the success of representative democracy. However, public policy has been shown to follow public opinion even despite low levels of political information in the electorate. Does this mean that political knowledge is irrelevant to policy representation? We consider whether knowledgeable electorates are better able to achieve representative policy outcomes. Using the heterogeneity in the responsiveness of government across the states, we consider how state political knowledge moderates the connection between citizen ideology and the policy outcomes of state government. Using national surveys and multilevel logit with post-stratification, we develop measures of collective political knowledge in the states. We test whether knowledgeable electorates are more likely to secure representative political outcomes than less politically informed constituencies. We find that as state political knowledge increases, so does the correspondence between the preferences of the public and the ideological tenor of state policy outcomes.