The 2007 American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) book award was given to Dean Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter for their book What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters (Yale University Press, 1996) at this year’s annual meeting in Anaheim, California.
The award, established in 2004, is given each year for a book that has had a lasting impact on the study of public opinion. What Americans Know About Politics and Why It Matters will be added to AAPOR’s list of the 50+ most influential books published in the field.
In presenting the award, Selection Committee chair Tom W. Smith said: "It is the rare book that blends together well-grounded theory, comprehensive data, sophisticated, quantitative analysis, and clear and insightful narration. What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters by Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter is one of those rarities. As Kathleen McGraw has noted this book is 'one of the most ambitious, provocative, and ultimately optimistic contributions to the public opinion literature in recent years.' First, it embeds its exploration of the political knowledge of Americans in a general theory of democracy and demonstrates how and why knowledge matters to the operation of the political system and well-being of the country. Second, it draws data from both a monumental secondary analysis of over 2,000 factual items covering a 50+ year span and new surveys designed by the authors. Together these data provide a solid foundation for their conclusions. Third, both their meta analysis of the factual items from the archives and their multivariate analysis from their own surveys provide careful, compelling tests of the importance of political knowledge and its role and function in the American political system. Finally, the book is logically organized and the arguments and analysis are presented clearly and precisely. Among the findings that emerge from the book are that political knowledge levels remained basically stable during the last half of the 20th century apparently due to off-setting trends, that people tend to be generalists rather than narrow specialists when its comes to political information, that group differences in knowledge exacerbate the political inequities of race, class, gender and age, and that political knowledge matters in the practice of effective citizenship and thus plays an important role in the functioning American democracy."