America the ignorant and apathetic

Why do politicians behave as if Americans are stupid? Because many of us are stupid and many more of us don’t bother to pay attention to what politicians are doing:

The Pew Research Center asked people this summer to identify the current chief justice of the United States from among four possibilities: John Roberts, Thurgood Marshall, John Paul Stevens and Harry Reid. Only 28 percent correctly picked Chief Justice Roberts. The late Thurgood Marshall came in second, with 8 percent. Fifty-three percent could not make a selection, answering “don’t know.”

The result was surprising; after all, people weren’t asked to pull a name out of thin air. And the alternatives to the real chief justice were scarcely plausible: Justice Thurgood Marshall died 17 years ago…; Senator Harry Reid has never been a justice at all; and Justice John Paul Stevens was prominently in the news this summer not for being chief justice, but for retiring.

In other words:

  • 53% of Americans admit to being clueless about the federal government
  • 19% claim to understand the federal government but are plain wrong
  • 7% or 8% more answered correctly but probably made lucky guesses
  • Only the remaining 20% of Americans have a basic grasp of who’s who in Washington

Congress and presidents serve corporations — not the people — because of our widespread ignorance and apathy. We the people are ignorant and can be won over with slick ad campaigns financed by mountains of corporate cash.

Posted by James on Friday, September 10, 2010