Political awareness and the identity-to-politics link in public opinion


Members of different social groups often hold distinctive political attitudes. Research shows substantial divides based on characteristics like religion, race, gender, and sexuality, suggesting a straightforward “identity-to-politics” link. But making that link requires some knowledge and understanding of politics, which not everyone has. As a result, I show, political awareness often moderates the link between social identity and political views. Among the least engaged, identity is only weakly related to politics, and the differences between groups are muted. As awareness increases, the connection between group membership and political attitudes tightens, and the magnitude of identity gaps grows. The substantive impact of awareness varies across groups, and there are notable exceptions to these findings. In general though, the identity-to-politics link — and thus many of the divisions attributed to demographic characteristics — is conditional on political awareness.

Journal of Politics 85(2):510–523
Philip Edward Jones
Philip Edward Jones
Associate Professor of Political Science