Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

William Downs - Chair

Second Advisor

Michael Herb

Third Advisor

Carrie Manning


This study examines the effects of civic education (CE) on local level participation among the rural poor. There is little extant knowledge of civic education’s effects among this group, although it represents the majority of citizens in many developing countries. It is important to understand what kinds of effects this little researched tool of democracy promotion has so as to know whether investments in it are worthwhile. Does raising awareness about rights increase citizens’ democratic participation—whether at village meetings, community groups, or in contacting their local representative? Are effects greater on collective or individualized participation? Who benefits the most? Are effects mediated by civic awareness and/or democratic attitudes (efficacy, political interest, and trust in politicians), or are there (also) direct effects on participation? Having gathered novel data of rural masses’ democratic dispositions, the study will be useful for practitioners needing information about the level of civic awareness among this group, and about how civic education may be used to promote this group’s inclusion and empowerment as democratic participants in society. Data consist of semi-structured oral interviews of 280 adult citizens in five villages and one rural town in peripheral areas in Tanzania and Zambia during election year. The study corroborates CE’s positive effects on knowledge—particularly of “first generation” rights and responsibilities—political interest, and some forms of participation. Most affected are contacts with the local elected representative (Ward Councilor) and involvement in community groups—both important for building a democratic (civil) society. Both cognitive and behavioral effects are greatest among women--a reason for optimism for those desiring to enhance women’s public role. Practitioners could thus use civic education to promote communication between citizens and elected representatives and people’s involvement in associations. They could utilize the radio—the most relied upon mass medium in these contexts--and target community leaders, the most sought-after individuals in community related problems. Civic educators should also seek ways to strengthen efficacy and interpersonal trust which were found to significantly promote aggregate participation, with the latter also increasing active involvement at community meetings—likely the first venue of participation for most rural citizens.