Bryndis Danke

Senior Project Advisor

Catherine Wineinger

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


Political Knowledge, Political Participation, Political Efficacy, Student Political Knowledge, Student Political Participation, Student Political Efficacy


The way people view political knowledge, political participation, and political efficacy impacts their interactions with politics. But how exactly do people define political knowledge and participation? Political science scholars are in the midst of discussions on how to broaden these definitions to include traditional forms of both (knowledge of political facts and participation in activities such as voting, campaigning, and protesting) as well as non-traditional forms (experiential knowledge and community activities). This paper examines the results of a survey of 196 university students and 5 student interviews to determine if these broader definitions are held by the general public. Additional information on how students view their own levels of political knowledge, participation, and efficacy was also collected in the study. I find that most students think of the narrow definitions of political knowledge and participation that include only traditional forms of both. There is a clear distinction made in responses between what students believe is community involvement and what is political engagement. I further demonstrate how these narrow definitions among students may negatively affect how they view their own levels of political knowledge, efficacy, and participation. Taken together, these findings suggest that if the broader definitions that exist in the political science literature were more effectively communicated and taught to younger generations, students might exhibit higher levels of political engagement. This might also narrow the gender gap in political knowledge as this study finds that women tend to be more involved in their community while men tend to rate themselves as possessing more political knowledge.


Political Science

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Political participation; Students--Political activity; Political sociology




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