"How many senators are there? A poll a few years ago found that only 20% know that there are 100 senators, though the number has remained constant for the last half century (and is easy to remember). Encouragingly, today the number of Americans who can correctly identify and name the three branches of government is up to 40%. Polls over the past three decades measuring Americans' knowledge of history show similarly dismal results. What happened in 1066? Just 10% know it is the date of the Norman Conquest. Who said the "world must be made safe for democracy"? Just 14% know it was Woodrow Wilson. Which country dropped the nuclear bomb? Only 49% know it was their own country." -- Rick Shenkman. He is the founder and editor of History News Network.
The only "good news" is that the level of ignorance has remained constant over time. Americans today are about as knowledgeable about history and civics as were Americans in the 1940s.
The lack of knowledge may partially explain why so many Americans do not vote -- they do not have the knowledge to cast an intelligent vote. Of course we also know that many people -- on the right, the left and in the middle -- do casts votes who do not have much know knowledge, haven't utilized critical thinking skills and are easily manipulated by the temper of the times.
The Pew Research Project on People and the Press in 2006 offered some insight into who votes, who doesn't vote, and why. About one-third of American adults are regular voters; about one-quarter are registered but rare voters; about 23% of adults are intermittant voters; and about 22% of adults are unregistered. Not surprisingly, those who don't vote are more socially isolated and more distrustful of people than than those who do.
- Article: Americans Choose, But on the Basis of What?
- Book: Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter, by Rick Shenkman
- Americans Rank Next to Last in Knowledge of the World
- Who Votes, Who Doesn't and Why: Pew Research