Mark Blumenthal | June 25, 2007
Under the headline, "Dunce Cap Nation," Newsweek released polling results this weekend (from a survey of 1,001 adults, interviewed June 18-19) that "test" Americans knowledge "on a variety of subjects," and found "many gaps in America's knowledge-including a lingering misperception about an Iraqi connection to the September 11 terror attacks, an inability to name key figures in the American government and general cultural confusion."
Most of the questions were relatively straightforward probes of knowledge, such as:
- Only 11% correctly named John Roberts as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on an open-ended question
- While 59% correctly identified Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, 28% were unsure and 13% picked one of the other choices (Barbara Boxer, Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich) on a multiple-choice question.
- Only 31% correctly chose Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
However, at least one question seemed miscast:
5. From what you know about the situation, do you think the United States is losing the fight against al-Qaeda or radical Islamic terrorism?
11 Don't know/Refused
Is that really an objective test of knowledge? Newsweek put the "No" response in bold type in the summary of results, indicating a "correct answer," so they seem to think so. However, given that our most informed commentators and candidates cannot agree on what to call this fight, and according to USA Today, even the Secretary of Defense "declines to say whether the U.S. and its partners are winning the war on terror," this measure strikes me as more a measure of opinion than fact.
What do you think?
PS: Just last week, Gallup posted an in-depth analysis of its own questions on whether the U.S. is "winning the war on terrorism."