Compared to College, Civic Knowledge Exerts a Broader and More Diverse Influence on the American Mind
Gaining civic knowledge influences a person’s opinions across a greater number of propositions and a broader range of issues than does simply earning a college degree.
Civic knowledge affects a person’s opinions on twenty of the thirty-nine survey propositions compared to the five affected by earning a bachelor’s degree. While college influences a person’s opinions on a narrow set of polarizing social issues, civic knowledge influences a person’s opinions on propositions in all of the major survey themes, including American ideals and institutions, higher education, immigration and diversity, culture and society, religion and faith, and market economy and public policy.
The influence that gaining civic knowledge exerts on a person’s opinions is also more broad-ranging than the influence of marital status (which significantly influences opinions on five propositions), gender (ten propositions), being a minority (ten propositions), earning a higher income (twelve propositions), and watching primetime television, news, and movies (sixteen propositions).
As noted, respondents to the ISI survey took a thirty-three-question test on America’s history and institutions, answered forty-one demographic questions, and stated whether they strongly agreed, somewhat agreed, were neutral, somewhat disagreed, or strongly disagreed with thirty-nine propositions.The analyses show that the influence civic knowledge exerts on a person’s views is not only broader than the influence exerted by a college degree, but it also appears to produce a more independent frame of mind.
Multivariate regression analyses were used to determine whether scoring higher on the survey’s civic literacy exam had an independent, statistically significant influence on a respondent’s opinions on each of the thirty-nine propositions.
The analyses show that the influence civic knowledge exerts on a person’s views is not only broader than the influence exerted by a college degree, but it also appears to produce a more independent frame of mind that admits to no set, reflexive point of view on many debatable issues.
For example, if two people otherwise share the same basic characteristics, including formal education, the one who scores higher on the civic literacy exam will be:
- More likely to agree that a person’s evaluation of a nation improves with his understanding of it; but
- Less likely to agree that legislatures should subsidize a college in proportion to its students learning about America.
- More likely to agree that prosperity depends on entrepreneurs and free markets; but
- Less likely to agree that the free market brings about full employment.
- More likely to agree that the Ten Commandments remain relevant; but
- Less likely to agree that the Bible is the Word of God.
Gaining civic knowledge influences a person’s views on the aforementioned propositions, whether that person gains the civic knowledge at college or elsewhere.
|Civic Knowledge Influences Opinions on All Themes Surveyed|
|Gaining additional civic knowledge as measured by the ISI civic literacy exam has an independent, statistically significant impact on a respondent’s opinions on twenty of the thirty-nine survey propositions. These twenty propositions range across all of the themes surveyed, including American ideals and institutions, immigration and diversity, higher education, culture and society, market economy and public policy, and religion and faith. Listed below are the twenty propositions on which a person’s opinion is influenced by gaining additional civic knowledge and the direction in which his or her opinion is influenced. The more civic knowledge a person gains, the more their opinion is pushed in the indicated direction. The propositions are arranged by theme category.|
|American Ideals and Institutions As you Gain Civic Knowledge, you are more likely to|
|America’s Founding documents are obsolete.||Disagree|
|America corrupts otherwise good people.||Disagree|
|American government should do more to solve international problems.||Disagree|
|Legislators should subsidize a college in proportion to its students learning about America.||Disagree|
|A person’s evaluation of a nation improves with his or her understanding of it.||Agree|
|Immigration and Diversity|
|Immigration into America should be reduced no matter how well immigrants assimilate.||Disagree|
|Discrimination is the most urgent problem in America.||Disagree|
|Culture and Society|
|Homeschooling families neglect their community obligations.||Disagree|
|Society is identical to government.||Disagree|
|America’s media covers rival political views fairly.||Disagree|
|Religion and Faith|
|The Ten Commandments are irrelevant today.||Disagree|
|Public school teachers should be allowed to lead prayers in school.||Disagree|
|Religion and science typically conflict.||Disagree|
|The Bible is the Word of God.||Disagree|
|Market Economy and Public Policy|
|Prosperity depends on entrepreneurs and free markets.||Agree|
|Global capitalism produces a few winners and many losers.||Disagree|
|Government regulation does more good than harm.||Disagree|
|Government must act to curb global warming.||Disagree|
|The American Founders opposed universal health care.||Disagree|
|The free market brings about full employment.||Disagree|