Latest poll shows too many Americans aren’t very knowledgeable

There’s a lot to bite off in the latest Politico poll of Americans on subjects ranging from health care to immigration to the role of the free press in America.

Many of the answers to one question don’t quite square with the answers to a related question, a fine indication that Americans haven’t fully thought out a lot of the issues that have dominated the news for the last year.

That’s understandable and it’s fairly typical.

The more disturbing questions, however, are the ones involving name recognition and whether the name evokes a positive or negative reaction. Fine, that’s politics.

What is distressing, however, is the choice “never heard of” to those questions.

It’s hard to feel hopeful about an informed citizenry when:

  • 6 percent have never heard of Donald Trump (he’s the president)
  • 16 percent have never heard of Mike Pence (he’s the vice president)
  • 13 percent have never heard of Republicans in Congress
  • 13 percent have never heard of Democrats in Congress
  • 17 percent have never heard of Melania Trump
  • 19 percent have never heard of Ivanka Trump
  • 40 percent have never heard of Jared Kushner
  • 39 percent have never heard of Steve Bannon
  • 37 percent have never heard of Jeff Sessions
  • 49 percent have never heard of Robert Mueller

Much is being made of the fact that 46 percent of those surveyed believe that the news media is making up stories about President Trump, although it’s not clear if they’re the same people who’ve never heard of the president of the United States.

No lie, America, it’s Donald Trump.

In any case, the results suggest that the news media is wasting its time in coverage of politics in America.

Here’s the full poll.

  • MrE85

    Pew may want to re-think that “As you may know..” intro to their questions.

    • MikeB

      I hope Pew gave these people a map to their own home. Otherwise they wouldn’t find it.

  • andy

    I truly envy the 6% that have never heard of Donald Trump….. Ignorance is very much bliss on that one!

  • Wendy Collins

    I wish I had never heard of any of them (except Mueller).

  • Kassie

    Looking at the poll, it seems “never heard of” may be a stand in for “don’t have an opinion of.” There was an option on the poll to choose “heard of, but no opinion” but it was not reported back that way in the results. Also, looking at Trump’s results, 44% were favorable, 51% unfavorable and 6% never heard of, which equals 101%, so those “no opinion” must have been added somewhere. All the results are between 99-101% and I imagine there are a lot of people who know who “Republicans in Congress” or “Melania Trump” are but don’t really have an opinion.

    • By the instruction in the language, there were four options. Only three were reported. But there’s no indication they took the fourth option and combined it with the third. I have no idea, though, why they didn’t report the fourth option.

      And I think people who don’t have an opinion about any of those thing also would fit the category of unknowledgeable anyway.

      • Kassie

        I don’t know. I know who Melania Trump is but I don’t really have an opinion about her. Or “Democrats in Congress.” I hate some of them and love some of them, so no opinion overall.

    • Noelle

      Actually in that specific section, the option is “Never heard of” – there’s no “no opinion” language there, so it’s literally people who have never heard of him.

  • Rob

    And Jesus wept. Wait – who’s Jesus?

  • jon

    That moment when you run for president to enhance your brand with no real hope of winning, but instead destroy your brand and manage to win, but still 6% of Americans have no idea who you are.


  • Barton

    i just…. I can’t even…. come the [expletive deleted] people!!!!

  • L. Foonimin

    remind me again why we as a society strive for universal suffrage?

    • Jerry

      Because the alternative is to accept the worst kind of disenfranchisement.

  • Keith P.

    No question why tens of millions of people didn’t vote in the 2016 election, I guess. Sad!

    • Ben Chorn

      IMO, the real reason is people’s votes don’t count. If I don’t vote democrat in a largely democrat state then my vote won’t count. All the electoral college votes go with the majority. Why should I bother voting red in a blue state or blue in a red state if at the end of the day the majority for my state decides? My vote literally won’t matter.

      • X.A. Smith

        And then there are the other 99% of elections which have nothing to do with the Electoral College.

      • Right and this gets to the heart of the Supreme Court case about the Wisconsin gerrymandering, which presumably will be upheld on a 5-to-4 majority because….gerrymandering.

        • JAM661

          They have not decided the case. Hopeful the Supreme Court is realizing that voting is getting to be very unfair. They have surprised us before with Gay marriage.

      • rosswilliams

        Your vote doesn’t really matter if your candidate loses by one vote. Gerrymandering is really the least of the problems created by partisanship. If you look at the legislature or the congress, the folks in the “majority” actually got only slightly more than 25% of the vote. Everyone else either voted for someone in the minority or their candidate lost. Its an even smaller percentage of the eligible voters.

        Then decisions in that “majority” caucus are made by its majority. So in theory you only need a little over 10% of the eligible voters to run the government. The reality is less stark, but it still explains how the political debate gets hijacked by a small bunch of extremists.

        • JAM661

          Democracy is no longer a democracy if no one shows up to vote. More states need to do what MN does which is allows any eligible voter to vote by mail. Then you can also sign up to get the ballot for all the elections as they come up without doing anything more. Many areas are having local elections for things like school board. These offices can be just as important if not more so with what may effect you personally but many times less then 10% actually vote and election can be won with just a few thousand people casting a ballot. Have you checking to see if there’s any local elections happening Where You Are? Hopefully you make a effort to also vote in those elections.

        • “If you look at the legislature or the congress, the folks in the ‘majority’ actually got only slightly more than 25% of the vote.”

          I will remind people who believe Minnesota’s 6th District is a hot-bed of wingnut conservatism because of Michele Bachmann’s multiple reelections, that Bachmann won her last election 2012 by just 1.2% of the vote (50.5% vs. 49.3%). But, then again, Tom Emmer is already proving to be a more popular (and less divisive?) 6th District representative.

          • Emmer had a whole “moderate” vibe in his first term. After last November he’s pretty much shed that.

          • I guess that puts my theory to rest. LOL Because, Emmer in 2016 won with 65% of the vote (against one challenger) vs. 56% of the vote in 2014 (against two challengers).

            Gosh, darn it.

          • Keep in mind that it was an open seat in 2014 so I would expect him to increase his percentage of vote as an incumbent. In both cases, I think, his opposition can best be described as “token”.

            As Michele Bachmann looked increasingly vulnerable, the quality of her opposition improved and it got media attention, which means it also got DFL Party attention.

            Now, it’s like the Third District was under Ramstad.

  • Jeffrey

    Depressing news. I wonder how people go around in the world and don’t know at least a few people on this list.

    Oh well, here is a song about ignorance that will cheer us up.

  • rosswilliams

    “Many of the answers to one question don’t quite square with the answers to a related question, a fine indication that Americans haven’t fully thought out a lot of the issues that have dominated the news for the last year.”

    Not really. As anyone familiar with polls knows, it means that,given the demand for a snap judgment, they provide completely unconsidered responses to the pollster’s questions. They choose their cliche of the day that seems to fit what they are asked.

    “In any case, the results suggest that the news media is wasting its time in coverage of politics in America.”

    If you actually are paying attention, people are wasting their time trying to stay “informed” using the news media. The media are in the infotainment business trying to create and hold an audience for their advertisers. That means emotionally charged coverage with the simplest narrative possible. Your side! Good! Their side! Evil!

    What is most telling is that 87% of Americans have heard of Melania Trump but only slightly more than half have heard of Charles Schumer. Do you really think that is THEIR fault?

    • If they’re getting their news from TV, yeah.

      • rosswilliams

        It doesn’t matter where they are getting their news. But that is the mime of every media outlet. Its not our audience that is misinformed, its those other guys. The reality is every media source is in the same business and plays by the same rules.

        • Categorically false. Good try though. Keep tossing ’em up. Maybe one will fall.

  • Jack

    We are doomed.