Conventional measures of political knowledge assess citizens’ familiarity with institutions, political parties, and political actors at the national level. We argue that other types of political knowledge are also important to democratic citizenship. We focus on knowledge about social rights (i.e., government guarantees that predominantly concern material well-being). We develop a new systemized concept that we call knowledge of social rights (KSR) and argue that KSR is particularly important in lower and middle-income countries. Using original survey data from Argentina, Brazil, Malawi, and Pakistan and secondary survey data from the Afrobarometer, we show ways in which KSR is empirically distinct from political knowledge as traditionally measured. The established correlates of conventional political knowledge in the United States also predict political knowledge in the contexts we examine. In contrast, these relationships are attenuated or in some cases reversed when we examine knowledge of social rights as an outcome. These results contribute to a growing literature that highlights the diverse areas of citizen knowledge that are relevant for contemporary politics. Our findings also point to the need for more research on forms of political knowledge outside the long-standing wealthy democracies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1911-1931
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Latin America
  • Pakistan
  • Political knowledge
  • Social rights
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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