WP91: 'Uncritical citizenship' in a ‘low-information’ society: Mozambicans in comparative perspective

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Working papers
Mattes, Robert and Carlos Shenga

High levels of poverty along with underdeveloped infrastructure greatly inhibit Mozambicans’ ability to participate in politics and assess the quality of governance in their country. Particularly, low rates of formal education, high levels of illiteracy and limited access to news media reduce the flow of political information that would allow citizens to make informed opinions about the way democracy functions. Data from the Afrobarometer demonstrates that relatively high proportions of Mozambicans are unable to answer questions pertaining to the performance of government or to offer preferences about what kind of regime Mozambique ought to have. Citizens who are able to offer answers most often uncritically overrate the performance of the new democratic regime. This paper explores the extent to which Mozambicans’ pattern of “uncritical citizenship” is a function of living in a “low-information society”. We find that this profile of “uncritical citizenship” is characterized by low levels of political information, relatively high levels of “don’t know” responses, and extremely positive evaluations amongst those who do have opinions. Moreover, there exist high levels of satisfaction with the supply of democracy juxtaposed with low levels of demand for democracy.