Saturday, November 12, 2011

Old Republican white men know what's going on in the world

Over the last four years, I've tracked the results of Pew's "News IQ" quizzes that are periodically administered to a random sample of around 1,000 Americans. A couple of remarkably consistent results are how men are better informed than women are and that the average American is far less informed than readers of this and similar blogs are.

Unfortunately, as honest as Pew is when it comes to the reports it commissions, politically correct acts of omission are far more common than they should be, if imparting honest information to its readers is truly Pew's primary motivation. Consequently, these quizzes never provide demographic data by race or ethnicity, the categories being limited to sex, age range, educational attainment, and partisan affiliation.

In the official report accompanying the latest survey results released a few days ago, the sex category has been scrubbed as well. When something becomes as depressingly mundane as the fact that men are better informed on current events than women are, it's past time to stop talking about it.

However, sex differences are still available at the political quiz index page that is accessible once a user has completed the quiz. Same old, same old, of course--men averaged 8.5 correct answers, while women answered 6.8 questions correctly on average. Even on the item asking quiz takers to identify a picture of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, men outperformed women, although only by a 6 point margin, the narrowest of the 13 questions. The widest sex gap, of 21 points, was on the question about the number of US military fatalities that have occurred in Afghanistan. It involves war, Asia, and numbers--so no surprise there.

The second consistency remains in clear view, however. Take a minute to complete the quiz yourself. Per usual, I scored a perfect 13 of 13 because for someone who follows the news, it's not a difficult thing to do. Yet the average American missed 5 or 6 of them. Most people simply don't pay much attention to what takes place outside of their own personal lives beyond some degree of exposure to various forms of popular entertainment.

As those things are blase, let's consider another aspect of the results that inexplicably don't ever garner media attention, even though they are a lot less threatening to the egalitarian zeitgeist than racial or sex disparities are, since they involve propositional categories. That is, they are not fixed, so with more education and greater awareness, this gap can be closed! The aspect at issue here is partisan affiliation (see p5). On every question posed (including the one asking participants to identify Hillary Clinton by photo that should presumably be skewed in the Democrats' favor), Republicans outscored Democrats, by double-digit margins on a majority of them.

Race presumably accounts for much of the Republican advantage, which is why it would be more interesting to see a partisan breakdown among whites alone. As perverse as it is, in this facet of the status-mongering game, conservatives have a vested interest in ignoring HBD. Because NAMs identify by overwhelming margins more with the Democratic party more than they do with the GOP, measures of knowledge, behavior, and life outcomes inevitably cast Republicans in a better light than they do Democrats.

Finally, take a gander at the results by age range (p6). The online version of the quiz only includes 13 of the 19 items administered in the official survey, but of the full 19, younger people outscored their elders on only two: The ability to correctly identify the crescent star as being associated with Islam and the capability to point out Brazil on a map of South America. In our ever diversifying future, though, these two items are of greater importance than the rest, like who the secretary of state is, what percentage of Americans are unemployed, or where the DJIA is!

* Which, in my case, simply consists of listening to the top of the hour news updates on one of the local AM talk stations or NPR at some point during the day--that limited amount of effort is sufficient to ace these quizzes.


Jokah Macpherson said...

I may be able to identify Sotomayor's picture, but if the quiz were oral, I would be prone to over-Anglicization of her name due to brainwashing from my own radio news source (not naming any names).

Anonymous said...

I took the political quiz, and got a perfect score. You're right; the quiz is easy.

A friend referred me to this blog because I announced on my blog that I just started some research into the concept (and controversy) of intelligence. Nature vs Nurture, cultural bias of tests, etc.

I am grateful that you have compiled so much information here.

I read The Bell Curve and Mismeasure of Man, but that is the extent of my reading on the subject so far.

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks for dropping by. I highly recommend my blogroll as well, especially Steve Sailer.

John said...


It is worth pointing out that women are often more informed about local news. The husband is more likely to know the names of more Supreme Court justices, and the wife is more likely to know what city council is talking about next week.

Noah172 said...

There were big age and education gaps in knowledge of the official unemployment rate. I figure that the young and non-college guessed too high because the situation is worse for them.

How the heck do more people know what Sotomayor **looks like** than the party split in Congress?

I would be curious to know what percentage of Christian Zionists could not identify Israel on a map. Based on my personal experience, I would say that it is non-trivial, to put it mildly.

Hail said...

I'm astonished that 40% of college graduates did not know the crescent was affiliated with Islam.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm a card-carrying white male liberal and I scored 13 of 13 right. The questions were absurdly easy, so I don't really congratulate myself on getting a perfect score. Had the poll asked more nuanced questions about various financial or political topics I'm sure I would have done rather more poorly.
When I'm at a magazine stand at the train station I'm amazed at how many publications there are devoted to celebrites. Most of the readers appear to women, and I would ask, if you can know so much about the private life of [Brad Pitt, or fill in the blank] can't you figure out who runs Congress?

Daen said...

I got 12/13 ... and, entertainingly, it was last one, the Republican symbol, I got wrong (I chose 'Democrat', for some reason). I'm a middle-aged, middle-class, white, social democratic Englishman, but I have lived here for two years now, so I should be acquainted with the issues, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Wait ... so all those saps watching Faux News actually have a better grasp of reality than the average Democrat? How is that even possible?

(Yes, I'm being sarcastic)

Audacious Epigone said...


Is Sotomayor celebrated as a successful woman on Oprah-like shows? Maybe that has something to do with it.


They are probably older college graduates, who came of age before Islam was worth thinking about.


When it comes to women with regards to knowing about the private lives of entertainment figures, it's in part because they see in celebrities themselves and the people they are close to. Majorities in Congress just aren't intimate enough (even if that intimacy is vicarious).


You did better than 90+% of people who've lived here for their entire lives. That's nothing to be ashamed of!

Anonymous said...

I was amazed that over half of the respondents didn't know in which branch(es) of congress the republicans held a majority. Maybe sickened more than amazed. The US government really wasn't set for democracy, was it?

Ed Tom Kowalsky said...

Anon #3,

It was until the great post-1965 inundation.

Anonymous said...

I scored 8 (better than 53% of voters), and I live in Canada with French being my first language...

Stereotypes about the average American are unfortunately true...