Americans Flunk Simple 3-Question Political Survey

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.