Monday, April 16, 2007

Survey Says...

The latest Pew Survey results are in. From the Editor and Publisher article:
A new survey of 1,502 adults released Sunday by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that despite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans' knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.

Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot -- with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.

Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly. Fox topped only network morning show viewers.

Told that Shia was one group of Muslims struggling in Iraq, only 32% of the total sample could name "Sunni" as the other key group.

The percentage of those who knew their state's governor dropped to 2 in 3. Almost half know that Rep. Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House and 2 in 3 know that Condi Rice is secretary of state. But just 29% can identify Scooter Libby, 21% know Robert Gates and 15% can name Sen. Harry Reid.

But nearly 9 in 10 knew about President Bush's troop escalation in Iraq.

Men scored higher than women, and older Americans did better than younger, on average. Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group.
The Daily Show / Colbert Report bit was not surprising to me, although I hope nobody is inferring that viewers are being educated by the shows. The fact is that the shows are political comedy and political satire, respectively, and only the politically aware are going to "get" the humor. The politically unaware are not likely to watch.

The bit about Fox News didn't surprise me, either. It's not the first time it's been pointed out that relying on Fox is risky for those who actually want to know what's going on outside of the GOP-approved knowledge bubble.

What does surprise me (alarms me, really) is that 30% of the country can't name the sitting Vice President. I've checked, and all three of my kids knew the correct answer... *whew.


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