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Following News, Political Knowledge Linked

September 26, 2012 by  

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Following the news is one way Americans learn about politics but it is not sufficient, by itself, enough to create political knowledge, U.S. researchers say.

A study at the University of Missouri School of Journalism found teens, especially, must think about and discuss with their peers what they read or watch on the news, to learn and understand political issues.

Adolescents who spend more time thinking and talking about the news with their peers and relatives tend to know more about political developments in the country than those who simply follow the news, a university release said Tuesday.

News consumption does not directly lead to political knowledge, the researcher found. Instead, news consumption leads to thinking about the news, which then leads to engagement in discussions about the news, which finally ends with political learning.

“This is important because an individual’s political identity begins long before one is eligible to vote,” doctoral student Edson Tandoc said. “Our political identity is not shaped overnight and so it is important to start molding our future voters while they are still young.

“Our study shows that if parents and educators want to increase political knowledge and action among younger generations, it is important to involve them in discussions about what they are reading in the news,” he said. “Just giving them a story to read is not enough. Teenagers need to be able to think through and talk about political issues in order to retain knowledge about them.”

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