I posted here yesterday about the in-depth new Pew Survey which, among many other things, gave respondents a three-question current events test. The results showed, for example, that viewers of certain "fake news" shows (Stewart, Colbert) performed better than those who favor many "real news" programs (such as Dobbs, O'Reilly). But what about the overall test scores for all viewers/readers?
Only 53% correctly identified the Democrats as being in control of Congress, with 15% picking the GOP-- and 32% not even able to venture a guess.
They did even worse when asked to name our current, longtime (and quite famous) Secretary of State. Only 43% named Condi Rice, 3% IDed someone else -- and an amazing 55% could not even take a shot at it.
And how many could name the new British prime minister? Merely 28% named Gordon Brown -- and guess who finished second with 5%? Our old friend Rupert Murdoch. Another 4% were sure it was Robert Gates.
Only 18% correctly answered all 3 questions.
Well, let's not forget that for years after 9/11, about half of all Americans thought there were one or more Iraqis among the plane hijackers.
But surely, by now, Americans at least admit they are somewhat deficient in keeping up with these things. Uh, not exactly. The same survey finds that 58% claim they follow "international affairs" very closely or somewhat closely. Two in three say the same about "political figures and events in Washington." Answering another query, 55% claim they follow national news closely MOST of the time, not just when something important is happening.
Greg Mitchell's new book includes chapters on Stewart and Colbert. It is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.