Today’s looming evidence that we are living in the Idiocracy, via the Washington Post:
Our results are clear, but also somewhat disconcerting: The less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene there militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force [and] the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing.
On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views.
About one in six (16 percent) Americans correctly located Ukraine, clicking somewhere within its borders. Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia, but the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off.
Does it really matter whether Americans can put Ukraine on a map? Previous research would suggest yes: Information, or the absence thereof, can influence Americans’ attitudes about the kind of policies they want their government to carry out and the ability of elites to shape that agenda.