web analytics
May 6, 2015 / 17 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Monitor »

The Ignorant American


Media-Monitor-logo

Two days after the 9/11 attacks, CNN and Time magazine released a joint poll asking whether the U.S. should declare war. Sixty-two percent of respondents said yes. Asked whom war should be declared against, 61 percent said they didn’t know.
That, in a nutshell, is why most polls are an exercise in frivolity – a depressing if sometimes perversely entertaining reflection of Americans’ constantly shifting, poorly informed, half-baked and often contradictory collective mindset.
Three years ago the historian Rick Shenkman released a slim but information-packed and thought-provoking volume titled Just How Stupid Are We? in which he lamented a generation of Americans “far less equipped than their grandparents were to grapple with the challenges facing the nation.”
Among the dozens of examples cited by Shenkman, he noted that “Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fewer than half of Americans could tell you her name during her entire tenure.”
He also pointed out that just “35 percent know that Congress can override a presidential veto” while 49 percent think the president can suspend the Constitution.”
The idea that we are living in a confederacy of dunces is nothing new; Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken were just two of many men of letters who almost from the nation’s founding never tired of excoriating the ignorance of their countrymen. Imagine what they’d think upon making the acquaintance of the current crop of Americans.
In his 2002 book MobocracyHow the Media’s Obsession with Polling Twists the News, Alters Elections and Undermines Democracy, Matthew Robinson highlighted the following:
            ● Twenty-nine percent of the American public believes the Constitution guarantees everyone a job; 42 percent believe it guarantees health care; 75 percent believe it guarantees a high school education.
● Nearly half – 45 percent – of all Americans believe the Marxist axiom “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” is in the Constitution.
● A January 2000 Gallup Poll found that 66 percent of Americans could name the host of TV’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (Regis Philbin), but just 6 percent knew the name of the speaker of the House of Representatives (Dennis Hastert).
● Political scientists Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter attempted to get a handle on the public’s political knowledge by studying thousands of questions asked in polls beginning back in the 1930s. Among their findings: more people had heard of John Lennon than Karl Marx; more Americans could identify actor Bill Cosby than could name either of their U.S. senators; and more people knew who said “What’s Up, Doc,” than “Give me liberty or give me death.”
● A 1986 survey found that almost 24 percent of the American public did not know who George H.W. Bush was or that he was then serving his second term as vice president of the United States.
● The Vanishing Voter Project, a program of Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, conducted a running survey of randomly selected registered voters during the 2000 presidential campaign. Respondents were asked six questions on the policy positions of Republican George W. Bush and six on the positions of Democrat Al Gore. Of the twelve questions – which covered a broad range of topics including defense spending, campaign financing, offshore drilling and affirmative action – only one was answered correctly by a majority of Americans. The rest of them weren’t even a close call.
The mindlessness works both ways: pollsters can be just as frivolous as the people they’re paid to question. A Time/CNN poll in 2002 asked, “Just as your best guess, do you think Osama bin Laden is alive or dead?” Meanwhile, TV Guide actually did a poll to learn whether Americans would prefer Barbara Walters or Dianne Sawyer to interview bin Laden (assuming he was alive, of course).

The distinction for the all-time mindless poll question was no doubt earned by the ABC News/Washington Post polling unit, which in July 1985 asked people whether they thought President Reagan would suffer a recurrence of cancer before leaving office three and a half years later. (For the record, 54 percent were certain he wouldn’t, 33 percent said he would, and an intelligent sliver, 12 percent, said they had no idea.)

 

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Ignorant American”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Hillary Clinton and PA acting president Mahmoud Abbas. Nov. 21, 2012
Clinton Said She Will Speak on Benghazi but Only Once
Latest Indepth Stories
Lewis-050115-Police-Training-at-Aleh

Although it’s emotionally difficult to see the suffering, helping out makes me happy.

I decided to really understand what Jewish people go through by becoming a Jew.

March for Armenian Genocide

Why does Obama and other democratic world leaders resist branding the Armenian killings as genocide?

Rioters smash window of police car in Baltimore.

I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”

FBI’s undercover agents contacted ORA (Org. for the Resolution of Agunot) pretending to be an agunah

Israel promotes coexistence and peace, providing freedom for all religions on the Temple Mount.

The Jewish vote won’t impact polls as much as it will the coffers of candidates and their Super PACs

Iran stands unopposed by the “international community” and is racing to assert regional dominance.

If some Israeli cops got a Jewish education & learned to love Jews, Israel would be a better place

No where in the world is there the level of intervention by foreign countries as exists in Israel.

The Ravens’ Ray Lewis screamed that violence is never the answer.” Unfortunately, he is wrong.

Obama is the latest incarnation of our ancient enemies who arise every generation with a new face

Why do Jews, then, sometimes feel more intensely about Polish anti-Semitism than they do about German anti-Semitism?

The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.

More Articles from Jason Maoz
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both outspokenly critical of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Congress, were wowed by him in 2011.

Note also the response to the speech by the top Democrats in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, both of whom have been outspoken in their criticism of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit.

Comptroller DiNapoli celebrates Sukkot with Crown Heights Jewish community leaders at the sukkah of Rabbi Chanina Sperlin of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

When you grow up in a home where your parents went through what my parents went through, you realize that life has to be meaningful. You have to be there for other people.

“It’s a lousy column and a dishonest one,” Halberstam wrote. “So close it. Or you will end up just as shabby as Safire.”

Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state

These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.

The Clintonan “engagement” liberals remember with such fondness did nothing but embolden Arafat and Hamas and Hizbullah as they witnessed Israel’s only real ally elevate process ahead of policy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/the-ignorant-american-2/2011/06/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: