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It's the Pew News IQ... Comin' right at you...
July 18, 2008 8:15 PM   Subscribe

What's YOUR Pew News IQ? (not to be confused with the New Zoo Revue, even though it rhymes) We've discussed Pew's surveys about news knowledge before, but this time you can test yourself. Just 12 eeeee-zeee questions (not 100). Wendell got them all correct. Can you?

Honestly, if you get more than 2 wrong, you should not be commenting on MetaFilter. But you should be reading MetaFilter and all its NewsFilter-ish links. Yes, I said it.
posted by wendell (90 comments total)

 
And just to prove that I got all 12 questions right, here is a screenshot of my results page(self-link, obviously). Why not 100? The 97 is the Percentile, because 3% of the people who took the test aced it, but then you should be smart enough to know that.
posted by wendell at 8:19 PM on July 18, 2008


12/12 but somehow I'm in the 97th percentile.

Go figure.

hey, I call trick question!:

Do you happen to know if the Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently closer to:

4,000
5,000
10,000
12,000

posted by yort at 8:19 PM on July 18, 2008


>hey, I call trick question!

yeah, that's the only one I missed. The correct answer in my case is "no".
posted by xbonesgt at 8:22 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


hey, I call trick question!:

Do you happen to know if the Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently closer to:


Seriously, I got only this one wrong as I'm not checking that shit every day and I was right a couple days ago. I bet a couple days ago, in fact, this quiz was wrong.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:24 PM on July 18, 2008


Yeah, at the end of last week, it was actually slightly closer to 10,000, but this week it's up nearer 12,000... YOU GOTTA STAY CURRENT.
posted by wendell at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2008


11/12. Picked 10000 for the DJIA.
posted by orthogonality at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2008


What's with the "do you happen to know" weirdness?
posted by ORthey at 8:28 PM on July 18, 2008


now, everybody who takes the quiz after reading this thread will automatically get that one right. damn spoilers.
posted by wendell at 8:29 PM on July 18, 2008



Honestly, if you get more than 2 wrong, you should not be commenting on MetaFilter.

Yeah, I agree; Metafilter was created specifically for the discussion of American politics.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2008 [13 favorites]


9 of 12 (but honesty gives +1 I hope)
Missed Q's 3, 9, 12
posted by Mblue at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2008


91st percentile! and I'm only 28!
posted by parmanparman at 8:31 PM on July 18, 2008


You were being sarcastic, huh.

Sorry.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:31 PM on July 18, 2008


Okay, AMERICAN CITIZENS who get more than 2 wrong are banished. Other Countries' folk can redeem themselves if they know "Who Is The Mole?"
posted by wendell at 8:35 PM on July 18, 2008


BS, I got 11/12 (91%) because they don't update the Dow Jones averages often enough. When I corrected for that (submitted a known wrong answer) I got a 12/12 and still only scored a 97%.

BS. 12 correct answers out of 12 questions in 100% correct, even if one was technically wrong, so suck on that you internet test!
posted by Science! at 8:37 PM on July 18, 2008


If you don't understand how you get 12 correct and score a 97%, you fail the 13th question.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:39 PM on July 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Okay, AMERICAN CITIZENS who get more than 2 wrong are banished.

they don't update the Dow Jones averages often enough. When I corrected for that (submitted a known wrong answer) I got a 12/12 and still only scored a 97%.

Just made your cut wendell
posted by Mblue at 8:41 PM on July 18, 2008


A 97 PERCENTILE MEANS YOU SCORED BETTER THAN 97% OF THE PEOPLE WHO TOOK THE TEST. 3% OF THE TEST-TAKERS GOT 12 OUT OF 12. THAT WAS THE REAL TRICK QUESTION. YOU FAIL AT MATH.
posted by wendell at 8:41 PM on July 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


The question-by-question breakdown showing the percentage of people who correctly answered each question saddens me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:42 PM on July 18, 2008


> Okay, AMERICAN CITIZENS who get more than 2 wrong are banished.

Hey, I only got 5 wrong.
posted by Listener at 8:42 PM on July 18, 2008


28% of people polled got the approximate number of US military personnel killed in Iraq, yet 84% of people polled know that Oprah campaigned for Obama? Jeebus.

Also, if you don't know who Ben Bernake is (and apparently 65% of people polled don't), Lemon Demon will help you.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:42 PM on July 18, 2008


"I got 11/12 (91%) because they don't update the Dow Jones averages often enough."

I don't understand your complaint. DJIA closed under 11,000 maybe four times in the last two years.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2008


No on told me I had to round up.
posted by Max Power at 8:52 PM on July 18, 2008


What's interesting is that college graduate is the demographic which scores better than any other demographic on all but one of the questions. Guess which question that is, and which demographic beats college graduate.
posted by orthogonality at 8:56 PM on July 18, 2008


DJIA closed under 11,000 maybe four times in the last two years.
One of which was Tuesday of this week. And nobody pats attention after Tuesday...
posted by wendell at 8:57 PM on July 18, 2008


pats? PAYS attention. I fail at typing.
posted by wendell at 8:58 PM on July 18, 2008


orthogonality

Se7en
posted by Mblue at 9:01 PM on July 18, 2008


What's with the "do you happen to know" weirdness?

Presumably they're giving you the questions in the same form that they appear in their surveys.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:02 PM on July 18, 2008


The Giants game against the Brewers is not going to wendell.

GO MARINERS!
posted by rtha at 9:08 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


(um. wrong thread.) (sorry.)
posted by rtha at 9:11 PM on July 18, 2008


Re military killed in Iraq, this is from AP today:

As of Friday, July 18, 2008, at least 4,124 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,360 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.


So not entirely a fair or clear question, I think.
posted by Slap Factory at 9:17 PM on July 18, 2008


The Dow got me too. I don't follow it.
posted by Miko at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2008


I got 0/12 (2%).
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


So not entirely a fair or clear question, I think.

Well, given the choices of "about 3000," "about 4000," and "about 5000," one of those is the most right.
posted by Miko at 9:20 PM on July 18, 2008


By the way, 2% is the percentage of people who rocked the test as hard as I did. My percentile is 0, of course.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:24 PM on July 18, 2008


easy questions. is there a more difficult version?
posted by brandz at 9:26 PM on July 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


THAT'S THE 2ND PERCENTILE, MPDSEA!!!
sorry. shouldn't shout.
Anyway, that means you did better than 2% of the population who got..... less than 0 right?!? Wait a minute....... maybe the 2% didn't try to answer all the questions, or they hit the Pew polltaker on the head with an oar (like rtha did).... I don't know, but my confidence in Pew's polls just dropped by about 11%...
posted by wendell at 9:26 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh, sorry I shouted, MPDSteve...
posted by wendell at 9:27 PM on July 18, 2008


Maybe you should preview there, smart guy.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:28 PM on July 18, 2008


I refreshed the page right BEFORE your clarifying comment, Steve, wrote the first two lines of my response, suddenly thought WAITAMINUTE... and lost what little mind I had left.

I think I'll go take the 1930's Husband quiz... g'night.
posted by wendell at 9:38 PM on July 18, 2008


12/12 and I only became a citizen two years ago. Although that actually probably gives me an advantage!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:49 PM on July 18, 2008


I'll admit I got more than two wrong. I mean, I had no idea that Doug and Emmy Jo were married in real life or that Henrietta Hippo was a guest on the Dating Game. And I swear the one about Mr. Dingle is a trick question.
posted by grounded at 9:53 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Honestly, if you get more than 2 wrong, you should not be commenting on MetaFilter.

The converse, however, does not hold. I went 12 for 12, and I definitely should not be commenting on MetaFilter.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 9:58 PM on July 18, 2008


11/12.

(I'm new here, so I hope this means I am allowed to comment.)
posted by amarie at 10:00 PM on July 18, 2008


12 out of 12, although the military personnel one threw me for a few seconds. It's been a while since I heard the number and thought it might have moved up.

Spoiler Free for your smoking pleasure.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:04 PM on July 18, 2008


Screw commenting on Metafilter, if you can't get at least 10/12 right, you shouldn't be voting.
posted by Dreama at 10:06 PM on July 18, 2008


I wasn't surprised that the TV talk show host question was the one most correctly answered.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:15 PM on July 18, 2008


I'm new here, so I hope this means I am allowed to comment.

Sweet Jebus, almost up to user number 77777. I gotta try to register that one.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:16 PM on July 18, 2008


9 of 12 here, and I'm Australian so I'm allowed. The last three are poppy heads.
posted by Jilder at 10:17 PM on July 18, 2008


Can you?

Not if the site's borked, I can't! Wooooo
posted by lumensimus at 1:52 AM on July 19, 2008


No fair--I guessed on some of the questions and got 12 out of 12.
posted by Peach at 4:00 AM on July 19, 2008


11/12 but not being a USian I can't be expected to know the answer to Do you happen to know the name of the current majority leader of the U.S. Senate?. The correct answer apparently in my case is no I don't happen to know.
posted by electricinca at 4:06 AM on July 19, 2008


I have to say I was really impressed with my own 11/12. I felt like I was guessing on so many of them. I suppose that the constant NPR in the background that I don't listen to so much as absorb is what helped me out.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:23 AM on July 19, 2008


76% and I am a Brit.
posted by dollyknot at 4:24 AM on July 19, 2008


11/12, of course I switched away from Kosovo because I thought "somehow.. that's a trick! I want to pick it, so clearly it must not be the right choice! Inconceivable!"

I have to wonder at their demographic breakdown, however. Maybe I glossed over the fine print, but unless they're doing this survey in Malls Across America(tm), or maybe Walmarts Across America(r), I don't see how see how their results can show anything except.. well.. lanky college or college-ette nerd types. Yeah, you heard me, nerd. :-*
posted by cavalier at 4:26 AM on July 19, 2008


I'd have done lots better if there were more questions about fluffy kittens, etc.
posted by Dizzy at 5:07 AM on July 19, 2008


9/12, 76%, I'm American but have lived in Europe since 1997 so questions about US politics tripped me up somewhat.

I have to say though only two finance questions doesn't impress me at all. Especially so considering events of the past year. And the Dow? The S&P 500 is far more representative of the overall stock market (and future prospects of the American economy) than the rather narrowly focused Dow.

Regardless, any adult should know at least the base rate of interest and the rate of inflation. Without this information it is impossible to rationally evaluate either loans offered or savings products sought out.

The Dow ain't gonna help there. Neither is knowing who is currently running The Fed.
posted by Mutant at 5:08 AM on July 19, 2008


Screw commenting on Metafilter, if you can't get at least 10/12 right, you shouldn't be voting.

Yeah, because nothing says Democracy quite like allowing only a small, non-representative segment of the population to vote.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:36 AM on July 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Regardless, any adult should know at least the base rate of interest and the rate of inflation. Without this information it is impossible to rationally evaluate either loans offered or savings products sought out.

Yeah, like I'm about to memorize a number that's constantly fluctuating and only affects my life once in a blue moon. YES bank employees should know them. YES stock brokers should know them. Joe Schmoe? When I need to know, I'll look them up.

(Opinion of MetaFilter lowering.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:45 AM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


12/12

And what's with these questions? (spoilers)

Is Condoleezza Rice: (Condoleeza Rice is)
2. Followers of the two major branches of Islam are seeking political control in Iraq. One branch is the Shi'a, whose members are known as Shiites. Can you name the other one? (Yes or No is the correct answer)
3. Since the start of military action in Iraq, about how many U.S. military personnel have been killed? (In Iraq? About 4000. About how many US military personnel have been killed - Afghanistan included - closer to 5000).
4. Do you happen to know what state U.S. Senator John McCain represents in Congress? (Yes or No is the correct answer)
5. Do you happen to know the name of the current majority leader of the U.S. Senate? (ditto)
6. Do you happen to know which political party has a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives? (ditto)
7. What is the name of the talk show host who has campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama? (correctly worded!)
8. Is Hugo Chavez the President of: (I would remove the colon and complete the sentence)
9. Do you happen to know if the Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently closer to (happen to know again, also I believe it was Wednesday it closed under 11,000)
10. Can you name the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee? (Yes, but I'm not going to tell you.)
11. Do you happen to know who is chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board? (again)
12. Which of the following recently declared its independence from Serbia? (correctly worded)

The writer would never have gotten away with this standard of exam at my institution.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:01 AM on July 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, because nothing says Democracy quite like allowing only a small, non-representative segment of the population to vote.

At the same time, you don't have a functional democracy when the majority of voters are voting in ignorance. Which is why having an honest and competent media is so important.

It appears young women are abysmally ignorant. How sad.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:25 AM on July 19, 2008


Check out the detailed results:

- more people knew the name of the federal reserve chair than the senate majority leader
- more people knew the head of the democratic national committee than the federal reserve chair
- men outscored women 56 to 39%
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:31 AM on July 19, 2008


I got 0/12 (2%).
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America


I.e., McCain voter
posted by DU at 7:57 AM on July 19, 2008


That I got the McCain and the Iraqi US deaths questions wrong clearly shows we do not have enough posts on either topic.

But seriously, I was surprised that I got 10/12 considering Mefi is my only American news source.
posted by tksh at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2008


30% of the American public doesn't know what party controls the House.
44% of the American public doesn't know (literally) the first thing about John McCain (that he's Senator from Arizona).

And some fraction of these people will be voting in November. (Many of them are non-voters - but some of them do vote.)

This explains a lot, actually.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:59 AM on July 19, 2008


Am I missing something? This survey seems mind-bendingly stupid.

28% of respondents know the number of troops that have died in Iraq. From a selection of four choices. From which they have a 25% chance of guessing correctly. So the results of the question are meaningless. Why not ask them for the figure to the nearest thousand without giving them the four choices? Would that be too depressing?

30% of the American public doesn't know what party controls the House.
44% of the American public doesn't know (literally) the first thing about John McCain (that he's Senator from Arizona).


So firstly, these are percentages of people who were sufficiently intellectual to be willing to participate. Secondly, those were multiple choice questions, one of them with two options, the other with four. Many people won't even understand what the questions mean without prompting. So in reality, both of those percentages are going to be much higher, surely high above 50%.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:00 AM on July 19, 2008


I don't read this as 30% of Americans not knowing which party controls the House of Representatives (although control is not a word I associate with Democrats). The question had a 50/50 chance. That makes it 40% above guessing, or less than half.

Although you can construct a question that is less than probability to answer correctly, there were 11 multiple choice with four choices and 1 with two choices. Guessing should have scored 26%.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:05 AM on July 19, 2008


At the same time, you don't have a functional democracy when the majority of voters are voting in ignorance. Which is why having an honest and competent media is so important.

Even our dishonest, incompetent media manages to report the answers to these questions on a more than daily basis. If you cannot correctly identify the Secretary of State who has held that office for 3.5 years (and has been a regularly reported on fixture in the current administration since day one) or the Senate Majority Leader who has held that post for 1.5 years, or know even the basics of the Sunni/Shi'ite thing which has been discussed regularly since the mid-1980s and near daily since the invasion of Iraq 5 years ago, then you are almost never watching even a moment of the 24/7 available TV news, you aren't picking up a newspaper, you're not even bothering to click the "news" link on the top of the Google page.

In short, you aren't doing your part. The media can't force you to consume its illustrative and educational components. You have to take some initiative to be reasonably informed and understanding of the matters of importance in your nation. And honestly, for the majority of people - particularly the ones who have access to an online poll - there's just no damned excuse not to.
posted by Dreama at 10:28 AM on July 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq -- "Yeah, like I'm about to memorize a number that's constantly fluctuating and only affects my life once in a blue moon. YES bank employees should know them. YES stock brokers should know them. Joe Schmoe? When I need to know, I'll look them up."

Ok I can't cite any data reflecting base rate changes that isn't behind a payfor firewall, and I try very hard to avoid linking to such sources on Metafilter as I like to help folks understand the markets for themselves. Citing inaccessible sources isn't helpful towards that end at all.

But since we know that the "prime rate" is based off of and changes with respect to the base rate, we can accept prime as a useful proxy in this case.

The St. Louis Fed maintains many publicly accessible datasets, one of which tracks changes in the prime rate. Covering the period 1955 to 2008, or 53 years of observations, we see there were 330 changes in the prime rate (once again, in response to changes in the base rate) , or about six per year. So it's difficult for me to accept your statement that this rate is "constantly fluctuating". Long run data shows us it changes every other month, on average.

But perhaps you meant the rate of inflation, and you know in some minor technical sense you'd be correct, as the components of The Consumer Price Index (CPI) or The Retail Price Index (RPI) do indeed frequently change. But nobody calculates this in real time. No, these metrics are calculated and published at discrete intervals, typically monthly. So once again we see the information flow isn't exactly overwhelming.


"...only affects my life once in a blue moon".

Well, I'd suggest that if someone has to handle money at all or make any financial decision on their own that's hardly the case as well. Every paycheck, every cash infusion into one's little economy is a decision point - invest, save in liquid form, apply to debt service, just blow it (yes, sometimes maximising consumption in the current period is indeed rational behaviour), or even borrow more money, so many choices. Again, one can be hardly hope to be successful in achieving financial goals if determined to remain ignorant of the basic environment such decisions are taken in.


"YES bank employees should know them. YES stock brokers should know them. Joe Schmoe? When I need to know, I'll look them up."

An informed customer gets value for money. They make intelligent decisions, and buy an appropriate product. Ignorant customers, those that aren't aware of the basics get sold inappropriate products. That's true of any market, and especially true of finance. And easy to understand why: one can't make an informed decision if unaware of the basics. Therefore we see people being sold inappropriate financial products time and time again.

Sadly, ignorance is one of the reasons we've had speculative bubbles in different markets about once every ten years on average. Yes, over the past four or five centuries we've seen bubbles that frequently, and we know that one of the components of almost all speculative manias is ignorance.

Those people that kept purchasing houses before the collapse, when many folks warned the valuations were out of whack? Gleefully bragging to any and all listeners about the 25% (or more!) YOY increases in their "investments"? They didn't have a clue about the rate of inflation, and therefore didn't know if their gains were unsustainable or not. We saw the same behaviour during the dot-com run up, and in fact as a component of almost every speculative mania over the past four hundred years.

Finally, looking up this information when needed? Presumably at the time of a major purchase? Hardly the basis for an informed decision. Nothing to base it on. Difficult to evaluate the information without context, without history and an idea of how its changing.

So how about asking a bank employee or a stock broker for at the time of purchase? Well, classic moral hazard; they have everything to gain by cheating you, by withholding information. Not knowing the basics sets on up to be sold a financial product.

Not buying the product mind you. But having it sold to you.

I know I've said this before but I believe ignorance of finance to be a very serious problem in The United States as well as most of the G7. Basic financial literacy all too often just isn't present, and people just don't know how to handle their finances. They get themselves in all sorts of messes. And I don't think it's really their fault at all, as these skills just aren't taught. They don't realise the importance of this information. Undeniably it is a major problem, but one that never seems to grab the media's attention.

Ever wonder why otherwise reasonably intelligent people have to file for bankruptcy, sometimes more than once! Or work all their lives, save and perhaps even invest and retire into a markedly lower standard of living? Or outright poverty?

More often than not, it because they are ignorant of the basics - current interest rates, the rate of inflation, what the long term returns of stock market are, when they have to start saving and how much they must save to achieve their financial goals. There is, of course, an element of luck that will snare even the most astute, the most prepared participant, but the predominant factor in this equation is ignorance.


"(Opinion of MetaFilter lowering.)"

Oh come on Sys Rq surely you can make a point without statements like that, can't you?
posted by Mutant at 12:02 PM on July 19, 2008


12/12. Believe me, no one was more shocked about that result than I. (And I usually make it a point to tune out the drivel that passes for news these days.)
posted by beatnik808 at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2008


Hands up high if you went to a state college!



hello?
posted by Dizzy at 12:21 PM on July 19, 2008


"(Opinion of MetaFilter lowering.)"

Oh come on Sys Rq surely you can make a point without statements like that, can't you?


Not that particular point, no. (If you want to scour my posting history for more "statements like that," go nuts. It'll probably take you a while.)

Regardless, any adult should know at least the base rate of interest and the rate of inflation. Without this information it is impossible to rationally evaluate either loans offered or savings products sought out.


That, mutant, is what I was responding to. How often do you think people evaluate loans or seek out "savings products"? It doesn't come up very often, I can assure you. Less often than

So, your defense of the so-called professionals you've just characterized as hucksters and shysters is to simply blame the ignorant fools who might acquiesce to their informed advice? Yeah, okay, nothing fucked up about that. Enjoy the bank closures.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:14 PM on July 19, 2008


erm... "less often than" the prime rate changes.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:17 PM on July 19, 2008


I.e., McCain voter

McCain voters' votes count just as much as yours. Ha ha!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:19 PM on July 19, 2008


Actually McCain voters' votes on average may be expected to count more. Thanks electoral college!
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:28 PM on July 19, 2008


Yeah, that Dow Jones question is bullshit. It closed at 10,962 on Tuesday, and it was all over the news about it going below 11k.

Weak.
posted by delmoi at 1:56 PM on July 19, 2008


McCain voters' votes count just as much as yours. Ha ha!

Not in my state, they don't.
posted by oaf at 2:45 PM on July 19, 2008


Sys Rq -- "That, mutant, is what I was responding to. How often do you think people evaluate loans or seek out "savings products"? It doesn't come up very often, I can assure you. Less often than the prime rate changes."

Ok, I try not to post opinion regarding finance on Metafilter. So, like my comment above, I'll post data supporting my argument; the difference being my comments won't represent what I "think".

So how often do people evaluate loans? Well, we don't really know (both you and I by the way), but there is data that will help us gain insight into the (very interesting) question.

According to just one source of data, Freddie Mac, roughly 40% of all mortgages they carried are (were) refinanced every year. Since we can't (easily) find industry wide data, let's assume this is representative of other providers.

But that's only one side of the equation. In terms of how many mortgages there are, we have to look to The US Census databases. This direct link may not work, but using data set S2506. Financial Characteristics for Housing Units With a Mortgage from the 2006 American Community Survey, we see there are some 51,234,170 homes in The United States carrying a mortgage. Actually, this is a conservative figure as we're ignoring home equity mortgages and home equity lines of credit (I can't find them, and truth be told I'm not sure if Census Surveys capture that data).

So using Freddie Macs data as representative of overall market activity, with some 51M mortgages outstanding in the United States alone, it would seem there are roughly 20 million mortagage refinancings alone every year. This, of course, doesn't capture new mortgage originations so again our results are conservative.

That's a lot of people evaluating loans. And that's just mortgage refinancings, not including new mortgages or borrowing money for other purposes - cars, boats, even credit cards. So even more loan evaluation activity.

And this data doesn't capture changes in activity; its an average figure. Data on changes in lending activity is available, but the sources I'm familiar with are behind a pay firewall and I can't link here. But lets talk it though and get some idea of how lending can / will change over time. There are two cases to consider.

When interest rates are falling people can and will refinance as often as possible, simply to save money by reducing monthly payments (in banking we call this pre-payment risk). They also will actively consider alternative offerings to maximise interest rates paid on their savings.

When interest rates are rising people will evaluate products offered by different institutions to seek out the lowest possible interest rates when borrowing money.

Once again, we see lots and lots of activity, most of it correlated with relatively larger changes in the base rate (i.e., few will refinance for a 25bps cut, but a much larger number will refinance in response to a three 25bps, or 75bps cumulative cut in rates).

But both of these scenarios assume rational, prudent actions which people simply will not undertake if they are ignorant about either overall conditions or changes in interest rates.

So it would appear that saying it doesn't come up very often, I can assure you." is flat out wrong. Until recently (i.e., the credit crunch) that is. I haven't seen much current data, but I'm willing to bet interest rates are presently on many peoples minds.

I'd ask Sys Rq that if you've got data to support what appears to be your opinion please post it, otherwise it seems your hypothesis is largely off base with what we objectively know, no doubt reflecting personal bias.


"So, your defense of the so-called professionals you've just characterized as hucksters and shysters is to simply blame the ignorant fools who might acquiesce to their informed advice? Yeah, okay, nothing fucked up about that. "

The point you've overlooked is bankers and brokers dealing with the public like that are salespeople not doctors for gosh sakes! There is no oath of mortality, only professional and to some extent regulatory codes controlling behaviour. Given the chance they will, like almost anyone, seek to maximise personal profit / gains. Just because they're not going to generate as much profit for themselves or their employers and not do you or anyone else a favour doesn't necessarily mean their behaviour is criminal.

Once again, we see that an informed consumer can make an informed choise. Its really nothing more underhanded than that, and happens in any field when someone is making a purchase. Know what you're buying to get a good deal.

I firmly believe that if people approached bankers and brokers skeptically, asking questions we wouldn't see so many financial manias and panics. But folks won't - and can't - because they are largely ignorant of all things financial. They adhere to the approach you endorsed earlier - seek professional advise when needed, and remain otherwise blissfully ignorant of the details. Well, that's hardly conducive to people buying a product. It's setting folks up to be sold a product, and, unfortunately, its a behaviour our current system of education endorses. Folks at all levels of educational achievement simply do not know enough about money.


"Enjoy the bank closures."

I'm sorry, Sys Rq but I'm missing your point here. Sure, bank closures are going to trend up for a while, no surprise there. We just went through a protracted period of relatively low bank failures e.g., three in 2003, four in 2004, none for 2005 & 2006, three in 2007 and five so far in 2008. The data supporting this position is here.

So while the rate of bank failures is going to increase - perhaps sharply - for a while they are a natural part of economic life, banks being businesses and all. In banking terms, we expect what's called a reversion to the mean, or long run average.
posted by Mutant at 3:12 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not in my state, they don't.

McCain voters? In my state? It's more likely than you think.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2008


The point you've overlooked is bankers and brokers dealing with the public like that are salespeople not doctors for gosh sakes!

I haven't overlooked that at all. I've merely implied that that is how people think of bankers because that is how banks market themselves.

We fundamentally agree that people are getting the shaft; you see that as a matter of Tough Shit Retard, whereas I see it as a clear example of experts using their superior knowledge to milk their unsuspecting victims out of every last penny, and then taking a few million more pennies after that. It's disgusting. It's pathological. It might not be criminal, but it damned well ought to be.

"Enjoy the bank closures."
I'm sorry, Sys Rq but I'm missing your point here.


Point: There's a reason for the upturn in bank closures. That reason? Pretty much exactly what we're arguing about.

Bank closures are a natural part of life in the same way getting run down by a drunk driver is a natural part of life. Neither is an act of god. Maybe it's the driver's fault, maybe it's the kid's fault for riding his tricycle in the street; sure, maybe the parents are at fault for failing to teach the kid not to play in the street. I just happen to believe the drunk asshole should bear most of the blame.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:30 PM on July 19, 2008


11/12, and without the benefit of being sober.

I did cheat on the Dow question, though. I have a stock ticker on my desktop and I see no reason not to use it.
posted by ryanrs at 12:12 AM on July 20, 2008


10/12, mostly because I read the economist. I got the US casualty count and the senate majority leader wrong, and neither regularly appear therein (nor in the Canadian media).

To give the survey a more international flavour: Which country has the highest casualty rate per 1,000 soldiers in Afganistan: US, Britian, Canada?
posted by djfiander at 4:46 AM on July 20, 2008


Sys Rq -- "I haven't overlooked that at all. I've merely implied that that is how people think of bankers because that is how banks market themselves. "

Yeh, marketing is an interesting point to raise. But every industry markets itself, the public image is somewhat different to the reality, and banking is no different. So once again, we revert to the point that knowledge of the basics - interest rates, the rate of inflation, etc - would help folks better help themselves. They can make knowledgeable, informed decisions.


"We fundamentally agree that people are getting the shaft; you see that as a matter of Tough Shit Retard, ..."

Gosh Sys Rq, that isn't the case at all and sorry if my wording led you to believe I think that way. I certainly don't equivalence physical disabilities with ignorance, no matter where I encounter ignorance, comments on Metafilter included (and I do have to say this - many folks, including myself, find "Retard" a rather offensive word in this day and age).

It really comes back to what has been illustrated repeatedly in this thread - folks have to know the overall environment they are making financial decisions in. If they don't, they will inevitably make suboptimal decisions. Decisions that potentially carry life long ramifications, and not always positive. I really hate to see people do this to themselves.


"Point: There's a reason for the upturn in bank closures. That reason? Pretty much exactly what we're arguing about."

Oh I think we agree more than we disagree - people just can't make optimal decisions if they aren't aware of the basics. This is true of pretty much any field, personal finance included. Relying upon a third party for all advise, counsel which is then blindly followed, just isn't advisable.


"Bank closures are a natural part of life in the same way getting run down by a drunk driver is a natural part of life. Neither is an act of god."

Well, we actually agree there to no small extent. Banks are businesses. Any business, including a bank, can fail, even in robust economic conditions, simply because business is risky.

But considering we've had uninformed consumers who had to take economic decisions in an uncertain environment, it looks like the country has some tough choices ahead of it. Lives are gonna change, in fact have already changed, some drastically and probably not for the better. Regardless of how the blame could be apportioned after the fact (and, of course, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight), I do think if people took more interest in and acquired knowledge of routine financial matters (e.g., interest rates, inflation rates for example as I opened this discussion upthread), things wouldn't be so severe. Questions would be raised. Issues would be pressed. A natural, self-mitigation to the speculative frenzy would have taken place. The bubble wouldn't be so severe. But that's just personal opinion, driven by a long history of researching financial bubbles.

While I certainly don't have any data supporting my hypothesis, at the core of almost every speculative bubble throughout history we've always found ignorance.

Unfortunately, we know just from this thread alone there is little shockingly little interest in these matters amoung the general public, and I think this is the fault of both the education and (to some extent) the regulatory systems. Folks shouldn't graduate from high school without knowing how to balance a chequebook - but they do. People shouldn't be allowed to acquire a credit card without an appreciation of how usurious some interest rates are - but they do. The list of situations where folks have to make a financial decision is lengthy, perhaps almost a daily event.

So during their lives people end up making lots of financial decisions - some large, others small - in an environment where just don't know what they're doing. They believe the regulatory system will protect them, that they don't have to know as someone will fix it if it breaks.

No wonder we have a financial bubble every ten years or so, and have for the past four hundred years.
posted by Mutant at 5:08 AM on July 20, 2008


Guys, get a room!

12/12 for me... and the wording of the questions was indeed quite awkward. The "Do you happen to know" bits do lead me to make the smartass "yes, I do" in my mind. Strange that they don't roll with a "Do you know" instead.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 8:00 AM on July 20, 2008


People shouldn't leave high school without knowing how to change the oil in a car, but they do.

That doesn't provide the 5 Minute Oil Change company an excuse for telling its customers to invest an extra five bucks for the synthetic oil, and then filling the engine block with molasses instead.

A lot of the problem in the financial industry is that it is choc-a-bloc full of supposed experts who flat-out lie to the people that trust them to give them solid advice.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 AM on July 20, 2008


People shouldn't leave high school without knowing basic online security and privacy practices. Sure, you might kill yourself in a car, but with a computer and an internet connection you might just wish you were dead.

OK, no, I do not know how to change the oil in a car.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:56 AM on July 20, 2008


Basically all this tests is, "do you watch the news?"

I don't think that's a sign of intelligence at all. A really good survey would test your ability to dissect a news story and see what is being said vs. what the 'real story' is, behind the way the media are framing a story, what facts they choose to include/omit, tone of the story and what they choose the emphasize.
In other words, "can you tell when you're being lied to by the news?"

That would be a worthwhile test... and probably a lot more relevant in a democracy with corporate controlled media. If you watch the news and can answer all the questions in this survey correctly, it still doesn't mean you have any interpretive skill or broader understanding of the world, it just means you know some facts.
A 13 year-old could answer these questions if they followe the news. It wouldn't say anything about their intelligence or capability to think.
posted by PsyDev at 3:27 PM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


In other words, "can you tell when you're being lied to by the news?"

Their mouth is moving.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:36 PM on July 20, 2008


PsyDev for the win.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:29 PM on July 20, 2008


11/12, 91st percentile. I missed the question about how many US troops had been killed in the Iraq War. Oops. Well, that's good, I guess. Relatively.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:51 AM on July 21, 2008


10/12. Boo the Dow Jones question, so I'm going to add that to my score. 11/12, then!
posted by Weebot at 1:00 PM on July 21, 2008


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