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Knowledge of Politics Survey
April 16, 2007 6:57 AM   Subscribe

The Pew Research Center released its annual survey on knowledge of current political affairs among Americans. 30% of Americans can’t identify Dick Cheney as the Vice President. But, better than that, the survey discovered that Americans who consider the Daily Show and the Colbert Report to be their primary news source are the best informed. So, it turns out that the satirical news on Comedy Central is the most effective news of all.
posted by Flood (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Correlation does not imply causality.
posted by empath at 7:01 AM on April 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


empath, are you suggesting that these best-informed Americans become best-informed through their non-primary news source? Because it seems reasonable to see causality implied between a "primary news source" and what a person knows about the news.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:05 AM on April 16, 2007


People who know a lot about this administration watch the Colbert Report, because the humor helps keep them from going insane.
posted by Malor at 7:05 AM on April 16, 2007 [6 favorites]


Wow! Apparently, we the people don't really give much of a shit...
posted by digiFramph at 7:05 AM on April 16, 2007


You've got to know the people they're making fun of if you want to get the joke.
posted by billysumday at 7:05 AM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that people who watch the daily show are probably better informed in general.

I just don't see how the show would be very entertaining if you aren't the type that lived and breathed politics and news.
posted by empath at 7:10 AM on April 16, 2007


Where do the articles use the term "primary news source"? They actually say "were likely to be viewers of" and "among the regular audience of".
So yeah, correlation !=> causality.
posted by signal at 7:21 AM on April 16, 2007


Faux News viewers are apparently mouth breathers.

Anyone see Idiocracy? I know those people!
posted by nofundy at 7:21 AM on April 16, 2007


Wow, blog readers are amoung the least informed. That's pretty suprising (since those are my primary news sources, and I'm a political junkie)

Also, I wouldn't gloat too much. People who's major news source was The Rush Limbaugh Show also did very well, only a few points behind Colbert/Stewart. And so did viewers of the O'Rielly Factor, even though fox viewers in general scored horribly.
posted by delmoi at 7:24 AM on April 16, 2007


Also, it's a biased poll because they didn't ask about the amazing resurgance of African elephants in the last six months. Clearly one of the most important events in the past few years.
posted by delmoi at 7:29 AM on April 16, 2007


...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.

Heh.

See, if you think government is the source of the problem, then you are entitled to ignore it, unless you need it to tell a woman what she can do with her own body. Or if someone burns a flag. Damn communists. Bet they're here illegally. Martha, go get my shotgun, and put some shoes on.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:40 AM on April 16, 2007


It's kind of unfair that people of other countries aren't allowed to vote in American elections. A lot of them seem to know more about American politics than Americans.
posted by rhymer at 7:48 AM on April 16, 2007


delmoi writes "Wow, blog readers are amoung the least informed. That's pretty suprising (since those are my primary news sources, and I'm a political junkie)"

My primary news source is MetaFilter. I scored in the 15th percentile.
posted by Bugbread at 7:52 AM on April 16, 2007


It makes sense that regular viewers/listeners of Stewart, Colbert, O'Reilly and Limbaugh would score well on this kind of exam, because it merely asks about basic factual recall. While O'Reilly and Limbaugh spew a lot of patently false bullshit, they do not say that Dick Cheney isn't, in fact, the vice president of the U.S.. They may say that Nancy Pelosi is a traitorious bitch, but they do so in order to say that a traitorious bitch shouldn't be Speaker of the House. Likewise, Stewart may satirically say that vice-president Cheney was recently caught torturing kittens, but viewers will still recognize that he is, in fact, VP.

So, not only does correlation != causation; knowledge of facts (while important) != synthetic understanding of their significance or implications.
posted by googly at 8:05 AM on April 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


My primary news source is MetaFilter. I scored in the 15th percentile.

Yeah, but I bet you didn't know Judity Giuliani used to cut up live dogs (who would later be killed) in order to demonstrate surgical equipment.
posted by delmoi at 8:16 AM on April 16, 2007


er I mean judith.
posted by delmoi at 8:16 AM on April 16, 2007


delmoi writes "Yeah, but I bet you didn't know Judity Giuliani used to cut up live dogs (who would later be killed) in order to demonstrate surgical equipment."

Of course I didn't. I didn't score in the top 15th percentile. I scored in the 15th percentile. 85% of people who took that quiz scored higher than I did. High school dropouts kicked my ass on that quiz.

And who is Judith Giuliani?
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 AM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's a direct link to the quiz. I scored in the 77th percentile-- apparently I missed Congress passing a minimum wage increase.

My primary news source is MetaFilter.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:21 AM on April 16, 2007


“If you are going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you.” - George Bernard Shaw
posted by well_balanced at 8:33 AM on April 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


77th here as well. I don't read newspapers or even own a TV.
posted by c13 at 8:34 AM on April 16, 2007


The test isn't very precise. If you get 9 of 9 right, you are in the 96th percentile (actually, they misstate it; you're in the bin containing 96-100%ile).

Yes, association (a more appropriate term here than "correlation", at least in its technical meaning) doesn't imply causation. It could be selection bias; more knowledgable people can better appreciate the humor in TDS or Colbert, and so are more inclined to watch it. (Don't really get the Rush/O'Reilly association mentioned above; those guys are neither funny nor lean on knowledge of current events for their screeds. In my opinion, they fly in the face of known facts, but the test really doesn't delve deeply enough go get to the level at which their inaccuracies flow.)
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:36 AM on April 16, 2007


If you take the quiz, there's an opportunity to look at a demographic breakdown of the results. I thought the perfectly monotone relation between correct answers and education level was interesting.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:40 AM on April 16, 2007


I think the real factor at work here is interest. If you care about current events enough to watch specifically political programming of any stripe, then you're probably pretty well informed. I know it's easy to assume that any who enjoys Rush is ignorant, but they're not. They're probably about as well informed as Daily Show viewers, they just reach different conclusions. You might think they're stupid for reaching those conclusions, but there's no reason to assume that they don't know what's going on.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2007


Mental Wimp writes "Don't really get the Rush/O'Reilly association mentioned above; those guys are neither funny nor lean on knowledge of current events for their screeds."

I haven't seen Rush in years and years and years, but when I did, back in college, he talked quite a bit about current events, and there were two guys who found him hilarious. I didn't, but I'm relatively left. They were relatively right. I'm sure they'd say "The Daily Show isn't funny". Funny is subjective.
posted by Bugbread at 8:44 AM on April 16, 2007



And who is Judith Giuliani?


Rudy's current (and third) wife.
posted by delmoi at 8:45 AM on April 16, 2007


77th percentile here aswell, not even American. Go metafilter!
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:47 AM on April 16, 2007


If you take the quiz, there's an opportunity to look at a demographic breakdown of the results. I thought the perfectly monotone relation between correct answers and education level was interesting.

But not by political party (Even though they ask). That would be the most intresting result, by far.
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on April 16, 2007


Well of course Daily Show/Colbert fans are relatively well informed. If they were not, the shows wouldn't be funny. Get it? The show is funny because they're informed. They're not well informed because of the show.
posted by Mister_A at 9:06 AM on April 16, 2007


I think it's rigged;l I got 77th percentile too. We are the fightin' 77th keyboard brigade!
posted by Mister_A at 9:09 AM on April 16, 2007


77th here too. Maybe we should form a club.
posted by drezdn at 9:29 AM on April 16, 2007


Percent who know Sunni as other Islam branch besides Shia: 32.

For the Daily Show/Colbert Report audience, that rises to 50%. Readers of major newspaper websites: 52%.
posted by russilwvong at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2007


I missed one question. Go me.
Of course, I've also been forcing myself to not listen to the radio while driving anymore (instead listening to my iPod loaded with "new to me" music that I need to know for my DJ gigs). And this week starts the NPR pledge drive, so I know I'll definitely not be listening for at least 2 more weeks.
I've actually been avoiding news and politics. Yet somehow it still creeps into my view.

Nothing any of them do surpises me anymore. It's like I've read the script and now I'm watching a bunch of high school drama kids completely fuck up the delivery.

I'm going to start purposefully watching news about Australian politicians. Then I can laugh because they don't affect me in any way right now.
posted by daq at 9:39 AM on April 16, 2007


Wow, did Judith Giuliani and Bill Frist go to the same medical school?
posted by JHarris at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2007


Oh, I got 60%. Not bad for someone who hates politics on principle!

(I imagine those who got 90% must really loathe politics.)
posted by JHarris at 9:45 AM on April 16, 2007


Smart people are cynical? No way!
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 11:03 AM on April 16, 2007


The quiz would be better if one could choose "I don't know" (and maybe more interesting if one could choose "I don't care").
posted by carmen at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2007


77 as well even though I really hate politics and try not to follow it. The test was way too easy.
posted by who squared at 1:41 PM on April 16, 2007


With an electorate this ignorant, we should be GLAD so few people vote.

Or smtn.
posted by JoddEHaa at 3:08 PM on April 16, 2007


"You correctly answered 9 of the 9 possible questions along with approximately 4% of the public."

I don't watch the Daily Show or Colbert Report at all.

(Personally, I find them both to be more annoying than entertaining.)

My primary news source is Fark!
posted by drstein at 3:38 PM on April 16, 2007


Things that surprised and depressed me:

1) O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh viewers did almost as well as Daily Show/Colbert viewers
2) Men did significantly better than women pretty much across the board
posted by SoftRain at 3:51 PM on April 16, 2007


Nice Shaw quote well_balanced

To restate Orwell: The proles will never rebel. Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
...unless you do schtick.
*puffs pipe sagely*
Mmm, yes, the schtick, yes.
*puff, puff, puff*
Left turn at Albuquerque and so forth. Yes.

“You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, rocket skates, Acme -- anything. I could slide off this floor on a banana peel if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish slapstick. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of comedy. We make the laws of comedy.”
“But you do not! You are not even masters of this planet. What about Eurasia and Eastasia? You have not parodied their leaders yet.”
“Unimportant. We shall parody them when it suits us. But always— do not forget this, Winston - *farts* - always there will be the intoxication of comedy, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of laughing at an enemy who is humorless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a creme pie splashing in a human face— forever.”
posted by Smedleyman at 5:27 PM on April 16, 2007


...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.

Another interesting fact to go with this, the most reliable indiator of a Bush voter was ... not party membership, not religious affiliation, but being a Fox News viewer!

And we have real causation/correlation going now folks!

I didn't say it, no, really, I didn't say stupid people vote Bush and watch Fox News.
posted by nofundy at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2007


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