Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony J. Nownes

Committee Members

Michael R. Fitzgerald, William Lyons, George White, Jr.


The purpose of this dissertation is to study the effects of political sophistication on the use of partisan cues in the 2002 South Korean presidential election. Many scholars in recent years have argued that it does not matter so much that many voters are poorly informed about politics because they can use information shortcuts or heuristic cues to overcome the lack of information and still make a reasoned choice. Based on these studies, much of the political sophistication literature in political science assumes that the use of party cues in the voting booth is the hallmark of an unsophisticated voter. Although this idea is nice in theory, it is not supported by empirical evidence. Thus, I examine the relationship between political sophistication and the use of partisan cues in Korea. Simultaneously, this study tests whether the levels of political sophistication differ in regard to voter turnout and candidate choice.

The results show that sophistication is positively related to identification with a political party. In other words, South Korean voters with high levels of sophistication are more likely to identify with a party than unsophisticated voters. Specifically, an individual’s political sophistication and ideology strongly affect the probability of identifying with a political party. My results also show that sophistication does, in fact, affect how people participate and vote in elections. The most important finding here is that there is a positive relationship between the level of political sophistication and use of partisan cues. That is, sophisticated Korean voters are more likely to rely on partisan cues. In the 2002 Korean presidential election, party identification as a heuristic did work for sophisticated voters, but not for unsophisticated ones.

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