When it comes to the goings-on in the news, some folks are more knowledgeable than others, with Republicans and older Americans scoring better on a current-events quiz.
In fact, out of the 12 multiple-choice questions asked in a Pew Research Center phone survey of more than 1,000 adults, Republicans answered an average of about 6 questions correctly compared with 5 for Democrats. (The survey was conducted between Jan. 14 and Jan. 17, and included cell phones and landlines.)
These political-party differences are partly a reflection of the demographics, with Republicans tending to be older, well-educated and male – all factors associated with political and economic knowledge. Even after accounting for these factors, however, Pew scientists found a gap.
But Dems can't take all the blame for national ignorance. Just 2 percent of the public answered all questions correctly, while 6 percent failed to answer a single question right. On average, Americans got just 5 out of 12 correct.
Even so, many people still talk the talk. For instance, even though respondents consistently expressed strong interest in the health care debate, just 32 percent knew the Senate passed its version of the legislation without a single Republican vote. And, in what proved to be the most difficult question on the quiz, just 26 percent knew that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate and force a vote on a bill.
(The survey was conducted before Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown won a special election to the Senate on Jan. 19; Brown's election means Senate Democrats can no longer count on a 60-vote majority once he takes office.)
Other political-party gaps
One of the largest gaps between political parties showed up in a question of who leads the U.S. Senate. About half of Republicans could identify Nevada Senator Harry Reid as the current majority leader, while only a third of Democrats could do the same, even though Reid is their own party's Senate leader.
Republicans trounced Democrats on a question about the percent of U.S. imports of oil that we consume. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans knew the answer to be two-thirds, while just over half of Democrats got that one correct.
Nearly 60 percent of Democrats knew that more than one woman serves on the U.S. Supreme Court, compared with 50 percent of Republicans. While the Democratic Party is made up of more women than men, gender didn't seem to account for the party gap, Pew researchers say.
The one question Republicans and Democrats were tied on: Thirty-nine percent of participants from both parties knew Stephen Colbert is a comedian and TV host.
Age and gender differences
Men correctly answered an average of six questions correctly, while women answered an average of 4.6 questions right. Those with college degrees correctly answered about seven questions correctly on average.
And as in the past, older Americans generally did better than young people. Respondents age 50 and older answered about 6 questions correctly on average, compared with just under 4 for those under 50.
More than 50 percent of the public knew the current unemployment rate is about 10 percent. However, far fewer, just 36 percent, correctly estimated the current level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average at about 10,000 points.