OUR NEWS I.Q. DIPS AGAIN WHO IS THIS MAN?
A. Lon Cheney; B. Boris Yeltsin;
C. The Vice President of the U.S.
With all our news sources, we're still 'know-nothings'
By CHUCK McFADDEN
Twenty-four-hour cable television news; the Internet; all news, or all-talk radio; blogs and blogs and blogs. And on top of that, we still have dear old Mainstream Media, or MSM. Clearly, Americans have more ways to get information today than ever before. Some say we are burdened with information overload.
But we dont know much more now about whats happening than we did 20 years ago.
It's startling to learn how dreadfully uninformed we are, even in the face of all the avenues of news communications now at our disposal. The past 20 years or so have shown little improvement in our knowledge of whats going on in the world. In fact, if anything, things are heading in the wrong direction.
The estimable Pew Research Center for People and the Press released a survey in April, based on a representative national sample of 1,502 adults interviewed and quizzed between Feb. 1-13 2007.
Its pretty grim:
About one in three Americans (31 percent) dont know who the vice president is; in 1989, only about one in four of us didnt know who the vice president was (Dan Quayle, remember?)
Roughly the same percentage (33 percent) dont know who their states governor is; in 1989, only 26 percent didnt know the name of their states governor
Half of us (49 percent) could identify Nancy Pelosi as the speaker of the House - meaning shes better known than the vice president
But one in four of us (24 percent) did not know which party controlled the House
The survey provides further evidence that changing news formats are not having a great deal of impact on how much the public knows about national and international affairs, the Pew Center declares.
There is an enormous difference between the knowledgeable and less-knowledgeable among us, with the most-knowledgeable third of the public four times as likely as the least-knowledgeable to say they enjoy keeping up with the news a lot, the Center reports.
Liberals may be startled to learn that listeners to Rush Limbaugh--the Dittoheads-- are among the most knowledgeable about current affairs. One-half of Limbaughs listeners are ranked in the high knowledge group. Compare that with the mere 38 percent among viewers of network evening news programs, or the 34 percent among network morning show audiences (the least knowledgeable audience listed.) And obnoxious Bill OReilly managed to pull a high knowledge viewership of 51 percent.
What programs ranked at the top, even above Limbaugh, for having high knowledge viewers? Two satirical programs: The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, with 54 percent high knowledge viewers.
Also ranking high in well-informed viewers and listeners were major newspaper websites (54 percent, tied with the Daily Show and Colbert; the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS at 53 percent and National Public Radio, with 51. Forty-eight percent of news magazine readers were in the high knowledge group and local daily newspapers came in at 43 percent.
CNN (41 percent high knowledge) beat Fox News (35 percent high knowledge.)
Men knew more than women; the more education, the more knowledge of national and international affairs; older people knew more than younger people; richer people knew more than poor people; whites knew more than blacks.
If youre an old rich white guy with a Ph.D., youre likely to do well in the Pew Quiz.
For the more sophisticated among us, certainly among those who are directing the 18 or so nascent and not-so-nascent presidential campaigns currently under way, none of this is particularly new or startling, I suppose. But I must confess I am amazed at one statistic--the one about 31 percent of the survey respondents not knowing who the vice president is.
Think about it. Put 100 representative Americans in a room, and 31 of them DONT KNOW WHO THE VICE PRESIDENT IS.
Who ARE these people?
I dunno. Given the way he is, maybe Dick Cheney likes it that way. No one ever accused Darth Vader of being a publicity hound.
©2007 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel.
The photo of that familiar-looking guy is courtesy of the White House.
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