Honest left-leaning sources are invaluable in that they are less susceptible to relentless media marginalization or destruction campaigns. The Pew Research Center is one such source. Last week it released the findings of a survey on public knowledge of current affairs.
Fat Knowledge touts the finding that viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are more up-to-snuff on current events (actually, if "moderate" knowledge of events is considered the midpoint between "high" and "low" knowledge levels--the validity of which is impossible to discern from what Pew has released, since the designations are based on a range of scores--the O'Reilly Factor tops the list of specified shows). That NPR listeners are less informed than either O'Reilly or John Stewart fans may come as a surprise as well (as someone who listens to NPR regularly, however, it doesn't).
The wide knowledge disparity by gender is the most intriguing (and bravest) finding. While 45% of men have "high" knowledge levels, only 25% of women do. Among those rated "low" (correctly answering nine or fewer of the 23 normative questions asked) were 26% of the men and 42% of the women surveyed. The true difference is likely obscured a bit due to the nature of many of the questions that dealt with being able to identify various people by name (rather than what they believe or what they've done)--a 'superficiality' that women seem to be better suited for than men are.
From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. For all but the last 8,000-10,000 years of human history, homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers. While males ventured off to hunt, defended the clan from external threats, and engaged in acts of aggression against non-clan members, females focused more locally--foraging for nuts and berries, caring for offspring, and preening to maximize sexual attractiveness.
Bluntly, men are, on average, more qualified to make macro-level decisions than women are. It is rooted in both biology and culture. The finding also provides some insight into why nearly one-quarter of the US population is admittedly hesistant to elect a female President.
Other interesting findings in brief:
- Republicans are modestly more knowledgeable than Democrats.
- Whites know more than blacks (unfortunately, these are the only two racial/ethnic categories specified); yet, illustrating the society-within-a-society phenomenon of contemporary black America, the percentage of blacks who know who Condoleeza Rice is greater than the percentage of whites who do (relatedly, blacks, who are concentrated in urban metropolitan areas, tend to get their information from local news sources in greater proportions than other groups do, disadvantageously so in the case of a survey like this).
- Income (and likely IQ) and knowledge unequivocally trend in the same direction.
- Those surveyed represented multiple news sources (however many they "watched, read, or listened to"). This probably inflates the performance of the comedy shows as far as each source's effectiveness in dispensing information is concerned. Just like reading The Onion, the Daily Show is more entertaining to watch if you have a grasp of the reality being humorously poked at. I suspect the stoned-slackers who reported the Daily Show as their sole source of information didn't fare too well.