Americans Flunk Simple 3-Question Political Survey!









Some news audiences are more politically savvy than others, according to a new poll, with readers of The New Yorker and similar high-brow magazines being the most knowledgeable.


The survey, conducted between April 30 and June 1 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, measured the political knowledge of 3,612 U.S. adults. Participants were asked to name the controlling party of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. secretary of state and Great Britain’s prime minister.


Overall, just 18 percent of participants answered all three questions correctly.


More than 50 percent of Americans knew that the Democrats have a majority in the House, while 42 percent could identify the secretary of state (Condoleezza Rice). Less than 30 percent could name the prime minister of Great Britain (Gordon Brown).


Perfect scores


The best-informed news audiences crossed the ideological spectrum. Nearly half of regular readers of The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s Magazine answered all three political knowledge questions correctly.


A perfect score was obtained by 44 percent of regular listeners of National Public Radio (NPR), 43 percent of regular viewers of MSNBC‘s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and 42 percent of the Fox News Channel‘s “Hannity & Colmes” audience. Thirty-four percent of “The Colbert Report” audience and 30 percent of “The Daily Show” audience got all three questions correct.


While most news audiences knew that Democrats have a majority in the House, participants struggled to correctly name the current British prime minister.


Just four news audiences had a majority who correctly identified Gordon, including regular readers of The New Yorker and similar magazines such as The Atlantic, regular NPR listeners, regular readers of political magazines, such as The Weekly Standard and The New Republic, and regular viewers of “Hardball.”


Just 44 percent of BBC viewers identified the prime minister correctly.


Here’s a detailed breakdown of the percentage of individuals answering each of the three questions correctly from the different news audiences:

  • The New Yorker/Atlantic: 71 percent (correctly identified Democrats as the majority in the House), 71 percent (correctly identified Condeleeza Rice), 59 percent (correctly identified Gordon Brown)
  • NPR: 73 percent, 72 percent, 57percent
  • Hannity & Colmes: 84 percent, 73 percent, 49 percent
  • Rush Limbaugh: 83 percent, 71 percent, 41 percent
  • Colbert Report: 73 percent, 65 percent, 49 percent
  • Daily Show: 65 percent, 48 percent, 36 percent
  • NewsHour: 66 percent, 52 percent, 47 percent
  • O’Reilly Factor: 70 percent, 60 percent, 41 percent
  • C-SPAN: 63 percent, 59 percent, 35 percent
  • Letterman/Leno: 51 percent, 42 percent, 31 percent
  • CNN: 59 percent, 48 percent, 29 percent
  • National Enquirer: 44 percent, 32 percent, 22 percent


Education factor


In general, well-educated news audiences scored high on political knowledge. For instance, 54 percent of the regular readers of publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s Magazine are college graduates, as are 54 percent of regular NPR listeners.


However, several news audiences with relatively low proportions of college graduates also scored well on the news quiz. Just 31 percent of regular “Hannity & Colmes” viewers are college graduates. Even still, 42 percent Hannity viewers got perfect scores on the political knowledge quiz, compared with 44 percent of NPR listeners.


Nearly 40 percent of the regular audience of the news parody “The Colbert Report” are college graduates, compared with 30 percent of “The Daily Show” viewers. Both shows have younger audiences than other TV news sources, with less than a quarter of Colbert and Daily Show viewers over the age of 50, compared with more than half of “Hardball” and “Hannity & Colmes” viewers being 50 and older. chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.



Filed under Politics

7 responses to “Americans Flunk Simple 3-Question Political Survey!

  1. Ginnie

    That is truly understandable that most individuals can’t answer those three simple questions. Part of the problem is they tune out facts because they are bias to their political ideaology. Those surveyed represented bias individuals who tuned into bias news cast. I can almost guarantee the individuals who answered correctly, are also those who vote based on the candidates overall objection, not party affiliation. The selfish individual votes for the candidate that represents a point of view they fill strongly about. They don’t vote on the candidate that benefits the population as a whole. American politics and the two party system in general is destroying the country.

  2. fakename2

    This was very, very interesting. I was particularly interested in how many regulars of Hannity and Limbaugh were correct (my bias showing…) I got all the questions right, but the only thing on the list that I regularly tune in to is NPR. Rarely, I’ll read something in The New Yorker. I have seen The O’Reilly Factor a couple of times as well as NewsHour and Letterman/Leno. The others…never. Surprised the New York Times wasn’t included. After NPR, that’s my other source, along with the Internet blurb stuff.

  3. eehard

    Every other word out of Limbaugh’s or Hannity’s mouth is “Nancy Pelosi and the Deocratically controlled congress…”

  4. fakename2

    You listen to them? Lol.

    P.S. Nancy Pelosi for President…8 years from now.

  5. eehard

    Only when I am in the car and need a good laugh.

  6. spencercourt

    I’m not surprised. That’s why I like the quote attributed to Churchill that:

    “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

    LOL! But it isn’t really funny…

  7. max

    very good!
    loved your site.

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