April 21, 2012

Nobody Knows Nuthin'

Click on graph to see it full size.
Opinion polling companies don't like to ask members of the public questions that have factual answers because the results tend to be so dire that they raise the unwanted question: Why are we being paid to ask people their opinions on things they apparently know nothing about? However, Pew, which is a not-for-profit, recently asked 1,000 adults a series of multiple choice questions about politics. In fact, they weren't even multiple choice questions. They were more like Couple Choice Questions, because the only answers were:

A. The Republican Party
B. The Democratic Party

As Audacious Epigone points out, you can take an abbreviated 13-question version of Pew's News IQ Quiz online here, and then see how you did versus the nationally representative sample. I'm not going to give away any questions before you take the test, but these are not hard questions and my getting 13 out of 13 does not reflect anything special about my knowledge of political history and current events. 

What's striking is that 35% of the public got only six or fewer right out of 13, which is worse than random guessing. 

Overall, Republicans did somewhat better than Democrats, men better than women, and the old better than the young. Pew did not report racial breakdowns. (Here's Pew's write-up of the results.)

In defense of the 35%, respondents weren't forced to guess, and many correctly admitted "I Don't Know" to various questions. Also, some of the questions about party ideology were de facto reading comprehension questions, with more twists and turns in the grammar than is advisable when making up a survey. 

But, still ...

79 comments:

Anonymous said...

13/13, and guessed the Boehner question.

Maya said...

You know, Steve... You were the first to present me with the idea that general IQ isn't an elusive, unmeasurable quality (that most people proclaim it to be), but something that can be roughly measured by most tests that are somehow related to either cognitive processing skill or information that one would be expected to pick up in life given enough attention, curiosity, processing ability and memory.

I started to keep track from then on, and it turns out that in every such test, from SAT/ACT/LSAT and the clinically administered IQ test to this stupid thing, I always miss placing in the top ten percent by a hair. This is way too consistent. Must be some sort of witchery...

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

I missed #5, the immigration question. Well, no, I got it right, but it was hard marking that answer.

OT: The manager who blew the whistle on the Secret Service's misbehavior is a black woman:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-scandal-rising-supervisor-at-heart-of-uncovering-misconduct/2012/04/21/gIQApy37XT_story_1.html

I am Lugash.

Steve Sailer said...

Yeah, I froze up on Boehner for about a second then said, "He's the guy who played golf with Obama!" which shows by in depth knowledge of current politics.

lfss said...

13/13, although I had to Google Boehner (knew the name, couldn't place it). And I'm not from the US.

Kylie said...

"...my getting 13 out of 13 does not reflect anything special about my knowledge of political history and current events."

Jeez Louise, I thought this was more of your false modesty.

Then I took the quiz.

My getting 13 out of 13 does not reflect anything special about my knowledge of political history and current events, either. But it was just one more indication of how little I have in common with other women. The demographic breakdown shows that women scored lower on every single question than did men.

Facebook and gossip, anyone?

By the way, there was a harder Pew test I took a couple of years ago on which I scored just 92%.

Bill Pearce said...

I am Canadian and found all these rather easy to answer correctly.

Anonymous said...

These sort of test are very useful in reminding just how terminally stupid vast majority of population is. The wisdom of crowds ... yeah. Nothing can go wrong.

Anonymous said...

Some of the questions are excessively g-loaded, for instance: Thinking about where the political parties stand on important issues, which party is generally more supportive of restricting access to abortion?

This could be asked in a much less confusing manner. I suspect that anyone with IQ < 85 has only a coinflip chance of getting that quest right, regardless of his knowledge of politics.

Anonymous said...

Here's a test:

1. Which party worships MLK more?

2. Which party is more afraid of Al Sharpton?

3. Which party says A and then does B?

4. Which party is owned and run by rich people?

5. Which party is a running dog of Wall Street?

6. Which party sucks up to AIPAC and Israel?

7. Which party silences all feelings of white pride?

8. Which party is opposed to 'racism'?

9. Which party supports affirmative action?

10. Which party is for 'free trade'?

11. Which party is filled with crooked whores?

12. Which party is noxious and odious?

Anonymous said...

But... I think a lot of people answer falsely for the hell of it.

In 8th grade, our class was given a questionnaire and a whole bunch of kids, mostly guys, filled in false answers for the hell of it.
For example, it asked what kinds of drugs they used in the past 6 months(confidentiality was guaranteed) and a whole bunch of clean cuts kids checked just about every drug listed: pcp, heroin, cocaine, etc. After the session was over, bunch of guys were cracking up about the answers they gave.

Anonymous said...

Oye vey, only 8% got all 13 correct? That's Jay-walking writ large

German reader said...

lol...I'm German, have never been to the US (don't intend to go there either, not least because of all those horror stories about criminal minorities I've read here) and am quite anti-American to be honest...still I got 13/13 of that Pew test correct! Which I take to mean that a) this test is pretty easy b) a large percentage of Americans really are ill-educated morons (to be fair though the same can unfortunately be said of many Germans and Europeans as well).

Anonymous said...

"OT: The manager who blew the whistle on the Secret Service's misbehavior is a black woman."

Drudge showed a pic of the hooker a few days back, and she seemed white. Does anyone know if any of the secret service agents involved were black?

Anonymous said...

Re that manager who blew the whistle ...

Ten years after entering the service at the bottom rung, she joined as a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that claimed the agency engaged in racial discrimination against African American personnel. She provided a declaration giving examples of ways black agents were relegated to lesser assignments.


Hmmm, she enjoys being a role model for women and minorities, it goes on to say.

Is that a role model on how to scam the government and grievance mongering?

Rev. Right said...

What is interesting about the results is that clear majorities of young people and people with only a high school education are wrong about which party wants (or at least claims to want) to reduce the size of the federal government. Most of them think Nancy Pelosi was a Republican and Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat.

Also, a slight majority of ALL women got the question regarding which party supports reducing the size of the federal government wrong.

That's been sort of the central theme for these parties for about the past 30 years.

This level of awareness is why we are where we are.

Anonymous said...

I got them all right.Can't imagine what it would be like to be dumb enough to get any of them wrong.

dave chamberlin said...

Sad and depressing, but insightful as well. Stay humble folks because it doesn't mean we are that smart, it means they are that stupid, and there is a huge difference. The damn fools would still believe in Santa Clause if it was a majority opinion of adults.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

LOL! The Boehner question gave me pause also. 13/13, though I felt I was just answering the way I was 'supposed' to. Rhetoric aside the Dems and GOPers are virtually indistinguishable

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

Also, if you consider a 100 IQ to be 'average', MOST people are below ' average intelligence.'

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

Drudge showed a pic of the hooker a few days back, and she seemed white. Does anyone know if any of the secret service agents involved were black?

There was a bunch of speculation that they were, but nothing has come to light.I'm guessing it's high-T men behaving badly. Or normally, depending on how you look at it.

I am Lugash.

Anonymous said...

I am a 66 yr old aussie - I got 13 correct in about 20sec!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm a genius. Really though, that was quite easy, so those results are not very reassuring as to the general intelligence levels of the country.

Total agreement with Kylie's response re myself and other women.

Anonymous said...

Lestrade: Cardiff?
Sherlock Holmes: It’s obvious, isn’t it?
John Watson: It’s not obvious to me.
Sherlock Holmes: Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.

goatweed

Anonymous said...

13/13 in 24 seconds.

Anonymous said...

Its been proven again and again that the majority of citizens don't know who their congressmen is, can't name BOTH their senators, don't know who's the head of Senate or House, or even know who's Chief Justice.

Reminds me of 2008, when 1/3 of SC Republicans thought McCain was the leading opponent of Amnesty.

Charlotte said...

I got 13 out of 13 but I see nothing of which to be proud. I kept thinking--when's the real test going to begin.
I am a woman, only read MSM news when the headlines are in my face. TV news, newspapers, mainstream mags and talking heads have the same effect on me that crucifixes have on Dracula.
I could have aced this test when I was 18, exchanging Boehner and Pelosi for somebody current at the time, and all 4 of my best female friends could have gotten everything right except the Boehner question, and they would have had nothing to be proud of either. All the answers were arrived at through rational means except the one about Boehner. I know the name in spite of efforts not to, and my hand just went to Republican through some mystic feminine intuition.

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

Drudge showed a pic of the hooker a few days back, and she seemed white. Does anyone know if any of the secret service agents involved were black?

I'm not sure, but the attempt to pay an $800 hooker $28 suggests an answer.

Sam L said...

Anonymous at 5:03 has an even easier test- all the answers are,"both parties the same!"

Ed said...

I'm a politics geek. I got 12 out of 13, and I have no idea how I missed one question. They seemed super-easy, or at least you can look them up on wikipedia, and only #13 (which is generally considered the more conservative party?) was open to interpretation. Four questions were on the party affiliations of two dead and two living politicians, which you can look up.

It turns out that 51% of the respondents got at least 9 questions right, which is what I would expect given the voting turnout rates. Its not quite true that the people who vote follow politics and the people who don't vote are idiots. There are alot of informed protest abstentions, but they are probably equal to the number of ignorant voters. And I think missing three questions is fine for this sort of test, one can come from clicking the wrong button and several of the questions were trivia.

Which is to say that I'm not sure what the point is here.

Hacienda said...

When the masses of democracy are that ignorant, the discerning minority must necessarily seem wicked.

Anonymous said...

I got 13/13 without any guessing, and it just took a few seconds. I'm a female Canadian and have never lived in the US.

I remembered Boehner as being a Republican from Florida with a strange orange complexion.

Maya said...

"
I remembered Boehner as being a Republican from Florida with a strange orange complexion"

That's the one I got wrong. I just didn't know.

"Four questions were on the party affiliations of two dead and two living politicians, which you can look up."

I think the whole point was to check what you know without looking stuff up. This quiz shouldn't take more than a minute regardless of one's level of ignorance.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure, but the attempt to pay an $800 hooker $28 suggests an answer.

Stop that profiling now!

Anonymous said...

Q5:Which party is generally more supportive of creating a way for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to eventually become citizens?

Republican President Bush tried hard 3 times to do this - Democrat Obama never even got congress to vote on it, even when he had a huge majority in the House and a super majority in the Senate.

Oh, yeah, I forgot - "Democrat" Ronald Reagan got an amnesty passed in 1986.

-Thripshaw

Ron Mexico said...

While it's very depressing to learn that anyone reading this blog might've gotten fewer than 13 correct, it's absolutely terrifying to read commenters tell us that *they looked some of the answers up on the Internet*. Looking up answers on a quiz like this is like cheating at solitaire: a sure sign of regression; *telling others* that you did so displays some kind of derangement.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to believe the results. I got 13/13 and I just refuse to believe that at least half of the people did not get 13/13 on a completely trivial test. People cannot be that stupid. No.

Anonymous said...

That was the easiest political quiz I've ever seen. It's hard to imagine anyone with any interest in politics getting a wrong answer, so I have to assume that 92% of the public have no interest in politics.

Anonymous said...

"And I think missing three questions is fine for this sort of test, one can come from clicking the wrong button and several of the questions were trivia."

Lincoln, Boehner and Pelosi's party affiliations could be called trivia, but unless you are ignorant of American history and have been completely tuned out to politics for the past 5 years, how could you not know that stuff?

CJ said...

What is interesting about the results is that clear majorities of young people and people with only a high school education are wrong about which party wants (or at least claims to want) to reduce the size of the federal government. Most of them think Nancy Pelosi was a Republican and Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat.

Also, a slight majority of ALL women got the question regarding which party supports reducing the size of the federal government wrong.

That's been sort of the central theme for these parties for about the past 30 years.

This level of awareness is why we are where we are.


Good points. I was struck by the gap between the old and the young -- particularly, 43% of the young knowing FDR was a Democrat compared to 68% of the old. 25 points is a major gap. The male-female gap wasn't as large as I expected. I've seen polls with questions like "How many Senators are there in the U.S. Senate?" where something like 70% of men answered correctly but only 40% of women (multiple choice, with 100 being the correct answer from four choices). I've also seen a question "How many Senators does your state have?" that was not multiple choice that had the same kind of male-female gap.

On to the Colombian hooker numbers -- and why not, it was obviously a big icebreaker for the delegates to the Summit of the Americas conference -- the woman who asked for $800 and was offered $30 eventually settled for $200 after calling the police.

GW Obama III said...

These questions had no correct answer:

#3) Which party is generally more supportive of reducing the size of the military?

#4) Which party is generally more supportive of reducing the size and scope of the federal government?

These questions made little sense:

#5) Which party is more supportive of allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens?

#7) Which party is generally more supportive of expanding the rights of gays and lesbians?

Steve Sailer said...

One possibility is that a fair number of people don't really understand the concept of "which party is generally more supportive of ... ." Perhaps "generally more supportive" is not black or white enough for folks?

GW Obama III said...

When I took the test and looked at the current results:

35% <= 6/13 (less than 50%)

Round that out to 70% randomly guessing with 35% guessing right and 35% guessing wrong.

That leaves a poorly informed (just above guessing) and better populace of 30%. Surprisingly, 8% got these rudimentary questions correct.

Incredibly, selection bias for this quiz probably artificially raises the percentages of correct answers as people tend to avoid things they are poor at and gravitate toward things they think they are good at.

No wonder the MSM can get virtually any turd they support into office and push non-stories to create magical thinking narratives.

Anonymous said...

I don't find it that surprising. People who read and comment on political blogs often vastly overestimate the number of people who give a damn about politics. It has nothing to do with intelligence; if you had given a similar test about sports, I would have failed miserably.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Boehner, a guy with a surname like that would have to keep himself squeaky clean. The moment there is any hint of scandal or corruption, you just know there are a horde of journalists waiting in the wings with the headline: "BOEHNER, SPRUNG!"

Anonymous said...

The commenters who say that scoring badly on the Pew test is a sign of stupidity are confusing knowledge of trivia with intelligence. In a police state like North Korea, the knowledge of the politically-correct answers would be a sign of intelligence, since everyone will strive to know them in order to avoid the executioner's gaze. Elsewhere, nobody apart from political junkies gives a damn.

Florida resident said...

13 / 13, with 10 second hesitation about Lincoln.

On other topic.
Is Zimmerman's defense really short of 15 K cash ?
Respectfully, Florida resident.

europeasant said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...4/21/12 10:59 PM
I refuse to believe the results. I got 13/13 and I just refuse to believe that at least half of the people did not get 13/13 on a completely trivial test. People cannot be that stupid. No."

I'm not surprised at the results.Don't forget that there are very many people who believe that we are all created equal in the image and likeness of God!

13/13 in 25 seconds

Marlowe said...

The monumental ignorance of the pubic regarding political matters has been well known and remarked upon by political scientists since the landmark paper "The nature of belief systems in mass publics" by Philip E. Converse. Ilya Somin seems to be the leading current expounder on the topic of how the public knows so little and democracy does so much.

Anonymous said...

I got 12 out of 13, and I'm an Australian who has only been in America for short periods as a tourist. I couldn't answer the Boehner question, as I don't know who he is.

Alan D

Chris Anderson said...

Already been pointed out, but #5 (immigration) is really a trick question. I had to consciously ignore the pictures in my head of Bush and McCain before hitting the Republican button.

Ryan said...

I thought at least one of the questions would be a challenge.

Here's a scary thought...think of the number of people who vote, who would never find themselves on a website with this quiz to begin with, and if they did, they would be unable to even comprehend the question.

This quiz only tests people from the right side of the bell curve.

NOTA said...

The test is on commn political rhetoric and trivia. For people like me who find politics interesting, it's trivial, though as a couple other people pointed out, there are a lot of ideology questions where you're asking what the marketing slogans of the parties are, not what they actually do. There are no major parties with a real interest in reducing the size and power of the government, for example. It's like asking which beer company is associated with Clydsdale horses--perhaps of historic interest, but not much use predicting what the beer will taste like.

Semi-employed White Guy said...

13 out of 13. Very easy quiz. I can't believe only 8% got 100%. But some of the questions, such as the immigration question and the "limit the size and scope of government" question, could in reality go either way.

I have been an advocate of voter competency testing for a long time. Too bad we will never see that happen. The results of this quiz only reinforce the need for it. And I would imagine that the people taking this test are smarter than the general population. Very scary.

Anonymous said...

13/13 from Scandinavia. Ridiculously easy test.

If you think of the questions mentioned by GW Obama III in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, I think they are black or white enough. The fact that their representatives in Congress often betray these values is of no importence.

The Lincoln question is a bit different IMO. He, like many others, was hijacked by the left a long time ago. He did a good deed by ending slavery, and is therefore of course a Democrat. And if he wasn’t, he should have been.

Svigor said...

I'm not sure, but the attempt to pay an $800 hooker $28 suggests an answer.

In Colombia, there are no $800 hookers. Only $800 Johns.

Looking up answers on a quiz like this is like cheating at solitaire: a sure sign of regression; *telling others* that you did so displays some kind of derangement.

LOL!

Svigor said...

It has nothing to do with intelligence; if you had given a similar test about sports, I would have failed miserably.

Whether one is fascinated by politics, or, say, professional wrestling, has nothing to do with intelligence?

Kylie said...

"I refuse to believe the results. I got 13/13 and I just refuse to believe that at least half of the people did not get 13/13 on a completely trivial test. People cannot be that stupid. No."

You need to get out more.

"People who read and comment on political blogs often vastly overestimate the number of people who give a damn about politics. It has nothing to do with intelligence; if you had given a similar test about sports, I would have failed miserably."

Sure it has nothing to do with intelligence--except that we don't elect sports figures, we do elect politicians. How intelligent do you have to be to see that you should be making at least a superficially informed choice at the polls?

For that matter, how intelligent do you have to be to see that in this context, making an analogy between politics and sports is not too apt? The first has a direct and pervasive effect on public policy, the second has only an indirect and occasional effect on it. Shouldn't people be a bit more informed about that which will have a direct and lasting effect on their lives? The circus-like atmosphere of both has apparently blinded you to their essential differences. Can't say that I blame you because a cursory glance at news on, say, Yahoo, would lead one reasonably to conclude that sports is at least as essential to daily life as politics.

Bread and circuses.

Anonymous said...

http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/4365/full

James Kabala said...

"I remembered Boehner as being a Republican from Florida with a strange orange complexion."

Believe it or not, Boehner managed to acquire his orange hue while actually being from Ohio.

"Lestrade: Cardiff?
Sherlock Holmes: It’s obvious, isn’t it?
John Watson: It’s not obvious to me.
Sherlock Holmes: Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring."

Ugh. Is that from one of the Robert Downey Jr. movies or from the BBC modernized series? The real Holmes was averse to insulting Watson, but not in such a crass way.

James Kabala said...

Sorry - I meant the real Holmes was NOT averse to insulting Watson, but not in a crass way.

Anonymous said...

How can you forget Boehner, he went on a crying jag every time he was interviewed.
"Some of the questions are excessively g-loaded, for instance: Thinking about where the political parties stand on important issues, which party is generally more supportive of restricting access to abortion?"

I'm surprised that Steve missed the leftist bias of almost all the questions. Rush Limbaugh would have spotted it.
1. Thinking about where the political parties stand on important issues, which party is generally more supportive of restricting access to abortion?
Why not: Which party supports greater access to abortion?

2. Which party is generally more supportive of increasing taxes on higher income people to reduce the federal budget deficit?
Why not: Which party supports tax increases?
 
3. Which party is generally more supportive of reducing the size of the defense budget?
Why not: Which party supports funding a strong military?

4. Which party is generally more supportive of reducing the size and scope of the federal government?
Why not: Which party supports a smaller, more localized government?

5. Which party is generally more supportive of creating a way for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to eventually become citizens?
Why not: which party supports allowing illegal aliens to become citizens?
 
6. Which party is generally more supportive of allowing drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Why not: Which party is more supportive of restricting oil drilling?

7. Which party is generally more supportive of expanding the rights of gays and lesbians?
Why not: Which party supports homosexual marriage?

8. The initials "G-O-P" are usually associated with
which political party?
I'll just say that the word "old" is included in that abbreviation.

9. Thinking about a few current and past political leaders, was Franklin Roosevelt a Republican or a Democrat?
A neutral one.

10. Was Abraham Lincoln a Republican or a Democrat?
Another neutral
 
11. Is John Boehner a Republican or a Democrat?
A white male.

12. Is Nancy Pelosi a Republican or a Democrat?
A woman.

13. Which political party is considered to be the more conservative party on most political issues?
Why not : which political party is considered to be more liberal on most political issues?

Anonymous said...

13/13, took a while on the first question thinking the wording might have been trickier than it needed to be.

Anonymous said...

"I missed #5, the immigration question. Well, no, I got it right, but it was hard marking that answer."

The question is about general perceptions. the local republicans are doing the most to restrict immigration, even if McCain would have been more effective in getting an amnesty through than Obama has been(go Obama).

David said...

The most ignorant people in the country appear to be young females whose education went no further than high school.

Clearly the solution is to send all women to college, and enact programs that eliminate ageism.

David said...

Anon. 1:35 AM -- how the country is governed is every citizen's business. It is more important than games or any specialized subject.

S.Anonyia said...

13/13....Easy test, but then again I graduated with a political science degree so it would have been rather embarrassing to miss any.

S.Anonyia said...

"I remembered Boehner as being a Republican from Florida with a strange orange complexion."

Charlie Crist is the orange Floridian. Boehner is the inexiplicaply orangeish-brown Ohio-an.

Marlowe said...

For an example of how far back the recognition of public ignorance goes consider the advice offered by Robert Heinlein in his 1946 book Take Back Your Government!. He advised organizing a pop quiz test of an audience of first time attendees at a political club meeting by asking the persons at it to list names of the following men (not a multiple choice BTW):

The President of the USA
The Governor of the state
The state Senators
The local district congressional rep.
The local state senator
The local state legislator
The County Commissioner
The local Mayor
The local Alderman or councilman

Heinlein predicted:

"The results will amaze you and, if you are not braced for it, dishearten you. If you find one paper in which the respondent has answered more than half of the questions correctly you are justified in naming her as a praiseworthy, intelligent citizen, especially if she voted in the last primary.

But it is unlikely that you will find anyone to praise. Most of them will stop after naming the President and the governor. There will be scattered answers thereafter, very scattered and about half of them wrong. Mostly you will see blank paper.

I remember one respected matron who thought that Prime Minister Chamberlain (1938) was a United States senator and I have even found people who could not name the President of the United States - although I classed such latter cases as sheer feeble mindedness and threw them out of my calculations.
"

sdavies said...

If you look at the Pew results chart, the column for high-school grad or less education reveals that overall, the results are almost precisely 50%, some slightly above some slightly below, but overall, 50%. And that, on this binary choice test is random chance. Insects would do as well.

Maya said...

"How can you forget Boehner, he went on a crying jag every time he was interviewed."

Oh, THAT rings a bell! There was a skit about him on Saturday Night Live. Otherwise, I still can't remember ever encountering that name before this quiz.

GW Obama III said...

Charlie Crist is the orange Floridian. Boehner is the inexiplicaply orangeish-brown Ohio-an.

Oompa Loompa Doompadee Doo
I've got a perfect puzzle for you.
Oompa Loompa Doompadee Dee
If you are wise you'll listen to me:
What do you get when you can't count to three?
Stumbling around with the brain of a flea.
Asked to remember one simple list.
But you could not, even the gist.
No one likes the candidate...
Oompa Loompa Doompadee Dah
If you weren't stupid you could go far.
You will live in happiness too.
Like the Oompa Loompa Doompadee Doo

Doompadee Doo.

Anonymous said...

Porn has so permeated society that I imagine, soon, people will be profiled by their taste, and it will be correlated to their politics. Why hasn't it been done already?

David M. said...

The most interesting thing this survey shows us is the deterioration in the public's knowledge of history.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to miss the Presidential political party questions, even though you were in school more recently. With FDR I can see how being older might be an advantage since you might either remember him yourself or have had parents who did - but what about Lincoln?

This is really quite scary.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

Could be because the pundits all pronounce it "BAYner" while most of us coming accross it in print pronounce it "BONER". *Its funny cuz its true.*

Flavia said...

That's pretty sad. I got a 12/13 and I don't watch the news or read about politics....it just seemed really common sense. The only wrong one I got was Boner- and to my defense I was laughing. I only knew Abe was a Republican b/c the Democrats didn't exist then...ah what a world. I am really, really misinformed. It frightens me that I think I'm stupid, but am actually fairly informed for an American. Yikes.

Marlowe said...

Just to beat the topic to death with examples, I read this report in today's London Evening Standard on the current city wide mayoral contest between Boris Johnson (Conservative) - the incumbent - and Ken Livingstone (Labour Party) the former Mayor and a few other minor candidates:

Mohammed Ashuk Ahmed stood proudly at the entrance to his colourful market stall outside Whitechapel Tube station and pondered whom he might vote for in the mayoral election.

“Yes, I have heard about this election,” he said, deliberating, “but I don’t think about voting yet.”

It soon emerged that the 30-year-old shopkeeper had no idea who he would support because he did not know who the candidates were. Nor, incredibly, did he know the name of the current Mayor.

“It’s Mr … Mr ... wait, I know him,” he looked heavenward for inspiration, then broke out in a big smile. “It’s Mr Lutfur Rahman!” But pressed to recall the Mayor of London rather than the honourable mayor of Tower Hamlets, he gave up and said: “Sorry, I can’t remember.”

The most astonishing thing about Mr Ahmed’s disengagement from the election is how common it appears to be.

The Standard took to the streets of Tower Hamlets last week, seeking to gauge the impact of George Galloway’s surprise by-election win in Bradford West on the London mayoral election, but instead discovered shocking levels of ignorance and apathy. Of the 20 people we spoke to in a two-day investigation — including young and old, college students and shopkeepers — 60 per cent could not name any of the candidates, and only three in 10 said they “are likely” to vote.


The UK national media (TV, radio & national newspapers) alongside local outlets has covered this contest extensively if not exhaustively yet these persons living in an inner-city borough of London know almost nothing of it.

On a positive note it means that the immigrant community of Tower Hamlets has assimilated the political ignorance of the traditional people of London. I wonder whether it causes problems for those persons who argue that immigration serves the electoral interest of pro-immigration parties.

Marlowe said...

After reading all the "Huh. Huh. Huh. You said Boehner." comments I feel I should mention the early 20th century British Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law.

David said...

Are the dismal results only stupidity or cynicism? Perhaps democracy is unnatural. People want to get on with their lives. To the extent that there are larger political questions, they want competent personnel taking care of that, like the lawn service takes care of the yard, but they don't want to scrape rust off the mower blades or know the name of every worker.

If participatory democracy is unnatural, then what do people want? Not dictatorship. Anarchism? A "businesslike government," as Perot said? Or what? Perhaps monarchy...happy peasants secure that the king is discharging kingly business more or less properly. This model was the norm for thousands of years; might it be the common person's default setting politically?