America’s Dismal Political Knowledge

The Pew Research Center tested the public’s political knowledge earlier this year by asking 1) which party had the majority in the House of Representatives; 2) the name of the United States Secretary of State; and 3) who is the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

The survey found that about half of Americans knew that the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives, but only 42% could identify Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State.  Only a little over 25% of Americans could name Gordon Brown as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and only 18% of the public answered all three questions correctly.  Got that?  Fewer than 1 in 5 Americans could answer all three questions correctly!

This is why candidates for leader of the free world go on television comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, and the David Letterman Show to reach the public.  Dignified presentations obviously don’t make much of an impression on the electorate.

It was interesting to note which groups scored the best on this survey.  In terms of getting all three questions correct, regular readers of The New Yorker and Atlantic magazines scored the highest, at 48%.  Listeners to NPR were next at 44%, followed by viewers of Hardball (43%) and Hannity & Colmes (42%).

Rush Limbaugh’s audience was next at 36%, followed by viewers of The O’Reilly Factor (28%), and the audiences for Larry King, CNN, and Fox News all came in at 19%.  Now here’s a surprise – out of all those who got the three questions correct, 9% of them were regular readers of The National Enquirer!