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odborná kniha / monografie
Pat Lyons

Political Knowledge in the Czech Republic

Pat Lyons. 2017. Political Knowledge in the Czech Republic. Prague: Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i. 530 s.

About this book

This book examines the origins, nature, and impact of different facets of political knowledge in the Czech Republic between 1967 and 2014. The central argument presented in this book is that evaluating citizens on the basis of objective, or factual, knowledge alone makes little sense. What citizens know about politics comes from a variety of sources that are complementary. This is the first detailed study of how much Czechs know about politics, and why it matters. Here are some of the key findings of this book.

  • There are many forms of political knowledge.
  • Citizens make decisions using different forms of political knowledge.
  • Czechs knowledge of politics has remained constant over time.
  • How people answer knowledge questions in surveys matters.
  • Political knowledge is shaped by personality traits.
  • Factual knowledge is linked with forecasting social change, but is not always linked with making correct voting.
  • Experts with high levels of knowledge do not agree on what is a correct answer.

An electronic (pdf) version of this book is free for downloading from this web page. This ebook contains additional (online) appendices that provide additional information about the data and analyses reported in this study. A printed, or hard copy, version of the book is available from the Press and Publications Department of the Institute of Sociology (email: tiskove@soc.cas.cz) or the author (email: pat.lyons@soc.cas.cz). The following are recommendations for this monograph contained on the back cover of the print version of the book.

Knowledgeable citizens make democracy work better, at least so we think. But we are not sure about this. We need to know about this proposition, especially in countries beyond the Atlantic perimeter. The work by Pat Lyons addresses this need, offering us a compendium on the pivotal Eastern European case of the Czech Republic. The book offers a broad, but still detailed, scientific treatment of political knowledge in that new democracy. Of special interest, he establishes the factual basis of political knowledge among voters there, showing that it has not increased over time, although the general education level has. This finding underlines the comparative nature of this seeming paradox, for it also occurs in American election survey data. An especially bold area of inquiry here asks whether more knowledgeable citizens are better at foretelling the future. His novel investigation of this fascinating topic suggests they may not be good at long-term social forecasting, but become better as the time horizon shortens. Still, even with those limitations, it seems that the predictions of everyday citizens can be as good as so-called “experts.” This valuable work fits well with the new work being carried out on the “wisdom of the crowds” and election forecasting.

Michael S. Lewis-Beck, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Iowa, USA.

What citizens know about politics comes from a variety of sources that are complementary.  Assessing their level of political knowledge by relying exclusively on citizens’ capability to answer correctly factual questions in surveys administered by experts can be misleading. This is the main result of Lyons’s detailed study about how much Czech citizens know about politics, and why it matters. The book will be of great interest for those working on the topic of political knowledge in general as well as for those studying belief systems and their evolution in post-communist Europe.

Professor Daniela Giannetti, Department of Political & Social Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy.

Masterly, astonishing and challenging, these are the attributes best characterizing this theoretically extremely and empirically well-founded study of political knowledge. A differentiated view on the dimensions of political knowledge is provided showing that any limited perspective on political knowledge like the prevalent approach concentrating on factual knowledge runs short if one wants to understand how ordinary citizens deal with politics. Empirical results show that the assumed difference in knowledge between experts and citizens is not as big as expected if existing at all. Furthermore, political knowledge has not increased over the last decades. And finally, voters seem to be no fools even if we do not fully understand all the relevant dimensions of political knowledge. The book masterly contributes with virtuosic empirical analyses embedded in a complex theoretical frame to our understanding of political knowledge and the theoretical and empirical challenges lying before us investigating it in all its facets. This book is a milestone of research into political knowledge.

Professor Dr. Bernhard Weßels, WZB Berlin Social Science Centre and Humboldt-University, Berlin, Germany.

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politika (a postoje k politice)

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