Surprise: Americans poorly informed on social issues


A British research group, Ipsos MORI, has released a new study of fourteen countries and their citizens’ perceptions of various social issues. Many people, it seems, seriously misjudge things like the rate of unemployment, the percentage of immigrants or Muslims or Christians in their population, or the number of pregnant teens. It was surprising — or perhaps not, given our media — to see the US population is the second worst informed of the fourteen nations surveyed. Only Italians harbored more misperceptions. Swedes were the best informed.

Other social issues included were average life expectancy, number of people who vote, murder rates, and number of people older than 65. And while you may not really care how misinformed your fellow citizens are, consider how it might, or just did, affect the way they vote.

Before reading about the study and its findings, try taking the quiz for yourself. (Remember, the study was conducted before this week’s election.) Unfortunately I’d already read some of the report before I saw the quiz, so I’d already seen some of the answers. There are only nine questions, so it’s a quick exercise.

How well did you score? Would you have guessed Americans are the second most ill-informed of the fourteen populations surveyed? Are you an exception … or part of the problem?

6 thoughts on “Surprise: Americans poorly informed on social issues

  1. I saw this myself, mentioned it to a PhD type friend who advised me to remember how skewed surveys are. She is right. But there’s probably some validity in the info. But, instead of wringing my hands am reminding myself it’s the state of consciousness of the world in general and we’re now a lot better than we used to be. Still a ways to go to rise above our struggle to find food, clothing, shelter, and safety. When we get those solved, more of us will feel freer to look around at the state of affairs of others.

    1. I once tried to do a readership survey for a publication and discovered just how difficult it can be to devise unbiased, non-leading questions. I don’t know how scientific this one might have been and have to hope it was far more extensive and detailed than the 9-question example they offered. Certainly we have the technology these days to be extremely well informed if we choose to be. I’m afraid, however, there’s a distressingly large segment of our population that either doesn’t care or is remaining willfully ignorant.

  2. Ugh. 2 out of 9. I got the unemployed looking for work (6%) correct, and murder is on the rise (false). Even though our prison population is increasing, murder is not. Go figure. Cha-ching! $$$

    1. Numbers like the % of immigrants in America should be more widely reported and emphasized, but that probably wouldn’t suit either side in that discussion. Whether pro or con, it helps to be talking about huge numbers. Of course, there are those who hasten to note, “but we’re ALL immigrants.”

... and that's my two cents