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Citizens tend to make political decisions that are affected by their understanding of political institutions People with a full understanding of political institutions have conceptual maps of the world that are less uncertain Without this knowledge people see economic and social change as more uncertain and unexplainable Any discussion of citizen competence must acknowledge the importance of political knowledge in helping people to evaluate politicians and policies Citizens limited knowledge of political institutions and the effect on their world-views are particularly strong because Americans have little knowledge about their own government and the institutions that rule their society It has been demonstrated that knowledge about government affects not just how well people respond to their leaders or how well they identify their interests and whether or not they vote The less a person knows about government the more likely it is that the voter will judge representatives by their personal character and the less a voter knows the less likely it is that he or she will vote Given the limited knowledge about government which most citizens possess realizing which issues will matter in any election is problematic It is not the importance of a policy or even the extent to which politicians differ on it that determines when an issue will become relevant to voter decision making What makes it key will be the availability of information people have about the issue Mostly the manner in which their own ideas and beliefs about how the world works to connect an issue to their own life situation and the candidate and party they are voting for It is important to concentrate on the role that understanding political institutions play when citizens decide whether to vote and evaluate candidates and policies The knowledge of the institutions of government is called cognitive engagement People who do not know about institutions and how they work cannot incorporate these institutions in their thinking about
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