Abstract: While we know quite a bit about how individual-level factors affect citizens’ knowledge of party positions, less is known about the role the information environment plays in perceptions. In this paper, we argue that for citizens to learn about parties' issue positions, they have to be exposed to a sufficient amount of political information, and information should be unbiased. The implication of our argument is that citizens are better informed about parties’ ideological positions in election time, but that this information effect is conditional on a free media environment. Using the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems data and leveraging variation in the timing of interview-taking, we show that citizens are better informed about parties’ left-right positions close to election time. However, this effect only holds in high media freedom settings. Our findings draw attention to the important role that the information environment plays in voter perceptions.
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