Document Type


Publication Date



Political socialization, Citizenship -- United States, Political science -- Philosophy


This article contrasts the national and local political knowledge of a random sample of 993 Philadelphians with the aim of enhancing the scholarly understanding of citizen competence. Empirical study of citizen competence extends back more than fifty years, but the survey data that have been brought to bear upon the topic are almost exclusively focused on national-level politics. Consequently, sweeping conclusions about the competence of the American public rest upon a narrow foundation. The comparisons in this article depict a slew of differences in the distribution of knowledge across national and local politics, many of which challenge established notions of who is politically knowledgeable. This, in turn, has implications for which members of society are seen as politically competent and how competent the public as a whole is thought to be.


This article has been accepted for publication in the Public Opinion Quarterly © 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research All rights reserved. The original publication is available at:



Persistent Identifier