Monday, September 8, 2008

Just How Stupid Are We?

Just How Stupid Are We?

5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters

Mr. Shenkman, the author of the new book,Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter (Basic Books, June 2008), is an associate professor of history at George Mason University and editor of the university's History News Network. This article first appeared in the Washington Post.
One thing both Democrats and Republicans agreed about in their vastly different conventions: The American voter will not only decide but decide wisely. But does the electorate really know what it's talking about? Plenty of things are hurting American democracy -- gridlock, negative campaigning, special interests -- but one factor lies at the root of all the others, and nobody dares to discuss it. American voters, who are hiring the people who'll run a superpower democracy, are grossly ignorant. Here are a few particularly bogus claims about their supposed savvy.
1. Our voters are pretty smart.
...... by every measure social scientists have devised, voters are spectacularly uninformed. They don't follow politics, and they don't know how their government works. According to an August 2006 Zogby poll, only two in five Americans know that we have three branches of government and can name them. A 2006 National Geographic poll showed that six in ten young people (aged 18 to 24) could not find Iraq on the map. The political scientists Michael Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter, surveying a wide variety of polls measuring knowledge of history, report that fewer than half of all Americans know who Karl Marx was or which war the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought in. Worse, they found that just 49 percent of Americans know that the only country ever to use a nuclear weapon in a war is their own.
2. Bill O'Reilly's viewers are dumber than Jon Stewart's.
Liberals wish. .... the knowledge level of viewers of the right-wing, blustery "The O'Reilly Factor" and the left-wing, snarky "The Daily Show" is comparable, with about 54 percent of the shows' politicized viewers scoring in the "high knowledge" category.
So what about conservative talk-radio titan Rush Limbaugh's audience? Surely the ditto-heads are dumb, right? Actually, according to a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, Rush's listeners are better educated and "more knowledgeable about politics and social issues" than the average voter.
3. If you just give Americans the facts, they'll be able to draw the right conclusions.
Unfortunately, no. Many social scientists have long tried to downplay the ignorance of voters, arguing that the mental "short cuts" voters use to make up for their lack of information work pretty well. But the evidence from the past few years proves that a majority can easily be bamboozled.
4. Voters today are smarter than they used to be.
Actually, by most measures, voters today possess the same level of political knowledge as their parents and grandparents, and in some categories, they score lower. 
5. Young voters are paying a lot of attention to the news.
Again, no. Despite all the hoopla about young voters -- the great hope of the future! -- only one news story in 2001 drew the attention of a majority of them: 9/11. 
It was on this day in 1892 that an early version of the Pledge of Allegiance appeared in a magazine called The Youth's Companion. It read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible, with liberty and Justice for all."
It was on this day in 1664 that the Dutch surrendered the city of New Amsterdam to the British, who renamed it New York. The English navigator Henry Hudson claimed credit as the city's discoverer in 1609, when he sailed into its harbor and up the river that now bears his name, looking for a passage to India. Hudson was sailing for the Dutch West India Company, so it was the Dutch who moved in and settled the area in 1614, six years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. Forty years later, New Amsterdam became a city; its population, 800. In the 1660s, the Dutch and English were at war, and on September 8, 1664, a fleet sent by the Duke of York seized the city and changed the name to New York.
It was on this day in 1565 that a Spanish expedition established the first permanent European settlement in North America at St. Augustine, in northeastern Florida, making it the oldest continuously settled city in the United States. 


Video Of The Week

Blog Subjects

Our Blogger Templates Web Design

  © Blogger template Brooklyn by 2008

Back to TOP