In the current digital age, information is more accessible than ever before. The internet has democratized knowledge, allowing individuals from all walks of life to access data and opinions through a simple screen tap or the click of a button.
However, this abundance of information has also given rise to a phenomenon known as the information gap in politics. This gap is created by disparities in how different segments of the population access, understand, and use information. It can result in ideological siloing, voter apathy, and political polarization.
Read on as we delve into the information gap in politics, highlighting its significance and providing practical steps for candidates and voters to bridge the divide. In addition to developing robust, comprehensive civic education, promoting media literacy is a crucial component for addressing the information gap.
The information gap in politics refers to the uneven distribution of political knowledge, awareness, and engagement across different demographics. This disparity can be attributed to various factors including education level, socioeconomic status, and geographical location.
The digital divide, which refers to the gap between those who have or do not have access to modern information and communication technology, also plays a significant role in perpetuating the information gap.
In a study conducted by the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, researchers discovered a direct correlation between education levels and interest in civic engagement and discussion. The study consisted of three groups of students between the ages of 16 and 26, and they came from a diversity of backgrounds and socio-economic levels.
Students with a strong civics education displayed a higher degree of media literacy, a greater interest in political discourse, and they were more active participants in the study. These students also had better access to current technology and a broader range of educational materials than their peers who demonstrated less media literacy, political knowledge, and political efficacy.
An information gap in politics can have far-reaching consequences on the democratic process. Unchecked, it leads to unequal representation. Those with less access to information are also less able to make informed voting decisions or fully participate in political discourse.
This, in turn, can result in policies that fail to reflect the needs and interests of the entire population.
The information gap also contributes to political polarization. Individuals are more likely to be exposed to and influenced by information that aligns with their biases and pre-existing beliefs when they don’t have access to a diverse range of information sources.
Media literacy, defined as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication, is a vital tool in bridging the information gap in politics. Developing media literacy skills enables individuals to critically evaluate information, discern between credible and unreliable sources, and make informed decisions.
This is particularly important in an era of fake news and misinformation, where the ability to navigate the digital landscape is crucial.
While the scope and purpose of this article isn’t to overhaul the American education system, there are some things that candidates and voters alike can do to improve civic education and narrow the information gap between voters and those who want to represent them.
Provide accessible communication. Candidates should strive to make their communication accessible to all, regardless of education level or socioeconomic status. This can be achieved by using clear and concise language, providing translations where necessary, and utilizing various media channels to disseminate information.
Engage in strategic community outreach. Candidates should actively engage in community outreach, particularly in underserved areas, to ensure that all constituents have access to information about their policies and platforms. This can be done through town halls, community forums, live online events, and partnerships with local organizations.
Promote media literacy throughout political campaigns. Candidates have a role to play in promoting media literacy among the electorate. This can be achieved by incorporating media literacy education into campaign messaging and providing resources to help voters critically evaluate information.
Seek diverse information sources. Voters should make a conscious effort to diversify their information sources, seeking out a variety of perspectives to ensure a well-rounded understanding of political issues. This includes consuming news from different outlets, as well as engaging with content from independent and grassroots media.
Develop critical thinking skills. Voters should work to develop their critical thinking skills, questioning the information presented to them and seeking out evidence to support claims. This can be achieved through educational programs, workshops, and online resources.
Engage in civil discourse. Engaging in civil discourse with individuals who hold different perspectives is a key component of media literacy. Voters should seek out opportunities for dialogue, fostering an environment where diverse opinions are heard and respected.
The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) provides a system for helping individuals consume media with a more critical eye. This process involves asking the right questions, whether you encounter a meme online or receive a voter survey in your mailbox at home.
First, consider the source of the message. Try to determine who created the content and when it was created. Next, you’ll want to ask yourself why the content was created. Who was the intended audience, and what does the content ask you to do? If money is what they want, what is the money for and how will it be used?
When the information is from a candidate or political campaign, what does the candidate stand for and why should you give them your vote? Are you able to contact or otherwise engage with the content creator or candidate?
Money is also a determining factor in media literacy. You must ask yourself who funded the information and what benefit they will receive if you answer their call to action. This can speak to their ultimate motivations and goals.
In addition to what the content contained, it’s important to consider what was left out.
One example is the “Right to Work” movement, which spends a lot of time and money on voter outreach without really disclosing much. It’s presented as a pro-worker platform that saves jobs, but further investigation reveals that they are really pro-business and anti-union.
These laws are appearing on more ballots each election. However, voters who have no idea what they’re about are also more likely to vote in favor of them and against their own interests.
Lastly, and more intangibly, is how the information makes you feel. How do you interpret what you’re reading or watching, and what does your first impression say about you and your own biases? Does the media use loaded language in an effort to get an emotional response? How could the information be interpreted differently by people from diverse audiences?
It’s also important to consider the credibility of the material. Is it fact-based information from a reputable source or someone’s opinion? How do you know if the source is credible or that the creator is someone you can trust to provide valid information?
Bridging the information gap in politics is a crucial endeavor that requires the collective effort of candidates, voters, and society at large. By promoting media literacy and ensuring that all individuals have access to diverse and credible information sources, we can work towards a more informed electorate and a healthier democracy.
The steps outlined in this article provide a practical roadmap for addressing the information gap, empowering individuals to make informed decisions and fully participate in the democratic process.
However, developing media literacy and closing the information gap are not the only solutions to combating problems like voter apathy and low participation in the political process. It will also take major systemic changes in the process itself.
It starts with such changes as breaking the two-party stranglehold on democracy by getting money out of our elections, improving ballot access for independent candidates, and considering alternative voting methods that lead to fairer elections.
But, no one can do it alone. It will take a concerted effort at all levels of society to demand and implement change!
It’s not too late to save democracy. You can do your part by developing media literacy and supporting independent candidates at all levels of government.
Good Party is doing our part by providing information and resources that are developed to help all Americans become more active, engaged citizens.
Let’s join forces to build a political system that works for all of us!