America the Somewhat Edjumacated

01 Jan 2009 10:02 pm
Posted by: Donna

Happy New Year, y’all!

A friend sent me this Pew Political IQ Quiz today. You can see how you stack up against 1000 Americans Pew queried in a scientific survey back in early December. Of course I got 100% because I’m a Divalicious dork who¬†rabidly keeps abreast of current events. It’s pretty basic stuff, like what party controls, and who wields the gavel in the House of Representatives. I’m sure most readers of this blog will have no trouble getting a high score.

When you’re done with the quiz, take a gander at the Pew report on the official poll. I was pleasantly surprised to see that 87% of respondents correctly ID’d Senator Hillary Clinton as the Sec’y of State nominee. However, I was disheartened to note that less than half knew where the Dow stands or how many US troops have been killed in Iraq. And while I’d normally be inclined to give them a pass on the Hungarian-surnamed President of France, he IS married to a supermodel who has appeared on Letterman so I don’t understand what happened there (only 38% correctly identified Sarkozy).

Overall, I think randomly selected Americans did better than I expected, considering the deplorably low bar set for basic civics knowledge in this country. I should also point out that knowing names and numbers is not the same as understanding the underlying concepts of domestic, foreign, and economic policies. At the same time, it’s a safe bet that a person who doesn’t know what Nancy Pelosi does (28% don’t), probably couldn’t explain the role of Congress or the separation of powers either. Still, knowledge of current affairs seems to have increased (at least in my observation) and I attribute it to an historic election season and this unheralded financial crisis. Seriously, on a recent visit to Big O tires to get a flat replaced, the conversation in the waiting room¬†was about deregulation and credit default swaps!

But don’t think we activists don’t have work to do. The stats that really bummed me out were that women did worse than men and that young people did poorly overall. A lot more men than women knew where the Dow was and 18-29 year olds answered fewer than half the questions right, on average. That’s alaming, and indicative of a dearth of outreach to some pretty important Dem constituencies. Obviously, too many of the people most vulnerable to the excesses of conservative government and laissez faire economics don’t feel that knowing what’s going on is important to them.


  1. Comment by Dana Kennedy on January 2, 2009 8:11 am

    I got 100 too! Great post

  2. Comment by Craig on January 2, 2009 10:28 am

    100% too (I think you’ll find that to be the norm among the political geeks who are your readership :) ),

    While we *do* have work to do with younger voters, don’t blame all of the differences on lack of outreach. Life experience does impact what someone pays attention to, and questions about the Dow and the President of France will skew toward older respondents.

    Great post, BTW.

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