Poll: Most Americans Need Civics Lessons For Dummies
January 29, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-The majority of Americans are pretty clueless about how our government works and have limited knowledge about prominent people and major events in the news, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. With cable news networks airing news 24/7, taken together with Internet news sources and standard print newspapers, there certainly is not a lack of access to information. Perhaps the majority of Americans have chosen an escapist route; devoting their leisure time to watching reality television, like American Idol and Jersey Shore, instead of CNN and other news sources. In a difficult time in our country of a deep recession, two wars, terrorist threats, joblessness and people losing their homes, who can blame them? But Democracy flourishes when a nation has an informed electorate. If we become a nation of dummies, then people are easily swayed by harmful propaganda. Think death panels, birtherism, wild conspiracy theories about FEMA detention camps and the false assertion that health insurance reform is a “government takeover.”
And worse than the dismal poll results, a similar general knowledge poll conducted last year shows that as a nation, we know significantly less than we did a year ago. Only 42 percent of Americans answered at least six questions correctly out of 12 in the new poll, compared with 71 percent in March 2009
The Pew Research Center’s News IQ Quiz asked those polled 12 multiple choice questions. In the politics and government category, only 32 percent know that the measure received no support from Republican members; not a single vote. And broken down by party, more Republicans than Democrats know that not a single Republican voted for health care reform, with 38 percent of Republicans knowing the correct answer, compared to only 28 percent of Democrats. And this trend is true with all 12 questions, with more Republicans than Democrats correctly answering the questions.
Regarding the number of votes needed to block a Senate filibuster, only 26 percent of those polled knows that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. This result is discouraging, at a time when our country has a dysfunctional Senate, where the Republican minority can obstruct and block every singly measure proposed by the majority.
When it comes to the personalities involved in politics and government, only 32 percent of respondents know that Michael Steele is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And only 39 percent of those polled know that Harry Reid was the Senate Majority Leader. Surprisingly, 48 percent of Republicans correctly answered the question about the Senate Majority Leader, compared to just 33 percent of Democrats.
When it comes to prominent people, less than half of Americans at 41 percent, were able to correctly identify Stephen Colbert as a comedian and television talk show host.
Americans were slightly more knowledgeable in world affairs. Fifty-nine percent knew that China held the most U.S. debt, and 57 percent knew that the U.S. imports most of its oil. More than half those polled, at 55 percent knew that the unemployment rate is closer to 10 percent. And despite massive news coverage surrounding the underwear bomber’s Christmas-day attempt to bomb an airliner bound for Detroit, only 50 percent know that the attempted bomber trained in Yemen. And again, with increased coverage and attention paid to the war in Afghanistan, only 43 percent know that there were more casualties in Afghanistan than there were in Iraq last year.
h/t Raw Story