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Americans Astoundingly Ignorant

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Bloomberg’s Tom Randall reports on the results of a recent survey:

What percentage of working-age Americans are unemployed and looking for work?

If you guessed about 6 percent, give yourself a pat on the back. You have a pretty good understanding of the unemployment rate, one of the basic measures of economic well-being. If, on the other hand, you guessed 32 percent — which would rank America among the most desperate nations on Earth — then you guessed just like the average American!

That’s one of the findings of a survey released this week by U.K. pollster Ipsos Mori, which interviewed 11,527 people. In the 14-country Index of Ignorance (Ipsos Mori’s name, but we approve), Americans are second only to Italians in how little we understand some of the stats that track the most basic contours of our society.

Ready for more? Try these:

What percentage of the U.S. population identifies as Muslim?
Americans guessed: 15%
Reality: 1%

What percentage of the population do you think are immigrants to America?
Americans guessed: 32%
Reality: 13%

Do you think this statement is true or false: The murder rate is rising in America
70 percent of Americans guessed: True
Reality: False

Here’s a question that every country got wrong by a wide margin:

What percentage of American girls aged between 15 and 19 years give birth each year?
Americans guessed: 23.9%
Reality: 3.1%

The layout of the online version of the poll is a bit confusing, in that it doesn’t present the numbers in order; I got one of the questions wrong because I did it quickly and picked the lowest number I saw rather than the lowest number available. Additionally, it’s quite possible that people confused “immigrants to America” with the “nation of immigrants” concept, and are counting those who are second-generation Americans and speak a language other than English at home.

Mostly, though, this is almost certainly a function of the availability bias and generated by sensationalistic news coverage. If you’re not a social scientist or policy wonk, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that Americans are extremely likely to catch Ebola, our cities are battlegrounds for rival street gangs, school shootings are commonplace, we’re absolutely flooded with illegal immigrants, teens are having babies at a rate that would shame bunnies, and so forth.

Unless you’re reading the New York Times, listening to NPR, or watching PBS as your sole sources of news, you’re probably better off ignoring the news media altogether if your goal is to understand the world around you. Fox and MSNBC get the most attention because they skew their broadcasts to appeal to an ideologically charged subset of the audience. But CNN, the broadcast networks, and especially local newscasts present almost exclusively the most sensationalistic stories in order to get people to tune in. It’s always been that way to some extent but the expansion of choices and hyperfragmentation of the audience has made the latter half of infotainment more dominant than ever.

Hat tip: John Allen Paulos 

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Bob@Youngstown says:

    So where are the “low information” voters in the US?

    Answer: Everywhere and apparently they dominate the landscape

    Comment: Sad

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  2. Mikey says:

    I didn’t do too badly–more right than wrong, and one of the wrong was on life expectancy where I haven’t heard of any change in a really long time. And a question like “what percentage of Americans voted in the last election” is rather poorly done. Last Presidential election? The recent mid-term? Which election?

    I took the quiz for Germany, too, and did about as well as for the U. S. The big surprise for me re: Germany is the percentage of residents who are immigrants is the same as for the U. S., I thought it would be higher because the EU makes it so easy to move for work.

    One big difference–and a question I got right–is there is a much higher percentage of Germans who identify as Muslim, due to large numbers of multi-generational families with Turkish ancestry. Which also means you can get a fantastic Doener Kebab just about anywhere in Germany.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. DC Loser says:

    ‘Murica!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Stonetools says:

    I’d add BBC and al-Jazeera to the list of reliable new sources.
    But otherwise, right on. If you see news in purely free market terms, then publishing the kind of “news” that brings the most eyeballs is one way to success. Fox News also shows another way: give people exactly the news and commentary they want to hear, 24/7/365.
    What’s clear from all this is that the venerable “marketplace of ideas” approach championed by liberals just doesn’t work. Accurate news reporting doesn’t drive out inaccurate news reporting: good ideas don’t drive out bad ideas. What matters above all is what’s popular and sensationalistic.
    Solution: I’m not sure. But the current setup sure ain’t working.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. Just Me says:

    To think there is a lot of ignorance in the US. Sometimes it’s due to the promotion in general of bad stats, and it doesn’t help that many of these stats fluctuate a lot and media can influence out perception of them.

    For instance crime rates in general-but especially violent crimes have been going down for well over a decade but the 24 hour news cycle and over hyping certain stories makes people think there is a murderer around every corner.

    I did pretty good on the quiz but I chose two low a number for both life expectancy (chose 78) and the percentage of voters (50% but I was thinking more about mid terms than presidential years and the stat wasn’t clear in just what year I was answering for or what year they used).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. TheoNott says:

    If you look in the comments of the Bloomberg article, there are actually tinfoil hats arguing that 32 percent is closer to the true unemployment rate, unintentionally proving the point of the article.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. Mikey says:

    @TheoNott: People believe this because the official unemployment rate only counts people who are looking for work (that the question stated this clearly apparently went over their heads). They are actually thinking of labor force participation, which is 62.8% as of October 2014. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. Todd says:

    I remember a Facebook conversation I had with one of my friends about a year ago. She posted a rant that covered several of the topics from above, including excessive teen births, and rising crime rates. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I sought out and shared the statistics which showed that reality is pretty much the exact opposite of what she believed.

    The “best” part was her response to me:

    “I’m not a journalist or anything, I was just stating my opinion

    That’s what we’re up against. This is someone who I worked with in the past, and consider to be a reasonably intelligent person. However, like many Americans, she feels perfectly entitled to make up her own “facts”, then invoke the 1st Amendment if anybody tries to point out her mistake.

    p.s. what percentage of people who voted in the election last week do you think wholeheartedly believe that an economy which has been expanding (albeit slowly) for nearly 6 years is actually in “recession”? … oh, and those same people almost surely believe that the deficits are still >$trillion per year.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  9. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Thanks, Fox News!

    You may as well add these questions as well:

    ——-

    Ebola?

    Fox News: Ebola Bioterrorist threat! Panic! Fear !!!

    Real cases: 3

    ——

    Economy?

    Fox News: The country is on the wrong track, Deficit spending out of control, economy stagnant !

    Reality: 55 months of private sector growth, Budget deficit shrinks to lowest level under Obama.

    ——

    Affordable Care Act? Sock Market? we could go on and on…

    There is not a chance for governance as long as a percentage of Americans are fed a constant stream of opinionated propaganda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  10. Ben says:

    I got 7/9 correct, I chose 78 for life expectancy, and I thought there were more seniors than there are. But the sensationalist news coverage is a huge, huge problem. It creates in viewers’ minds the idea that we’re living in some sort of dystopian, immoral society where half the population is out of work immigrants and their teen girls having kids living on welfare. It’s toxic and it’s a large part of why any sort of societal progress is functionally impossible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    I think a breakdown by state and age group would be interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Pinky says:

    The problem isn’t so much the particular media, it’s how you consume them. Getting your news from just NYT, NPR, and PBS would breed its own type of ignorance. You need to learn how to properly consume information. Good questions to ask yourself:
    Is this piece described as news or opinion?
    Is it news or opinion?
    Does it cite specifics? Can those specifics reasonably be generalized?
    Does it match what other sources are saying? Does it match other sources word-for-word?

    On a separate note, I think the survey does as bad a job “pushing” information as any news media. It doesn’t trouble me if people think the average life expectancy is 78 rather than 80, or 56% of eligible voters rather than 60% voted in the last election. It also revolves around scare numbers – quantifiable issues that show up frequently in the press but may not concern the reader.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 16

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    The problem isn’t so much the particular media, it’s how you consume them. Getting your news from just NYT, NPR, and PBS would breed its own type of ignorance.

    No, actually, that’s just plain wrong. It is absolutely the type of media consumed. It would absolutely not be the same if you got your news from reputable sources like, say, the BBC which apparently did a much better job of informing Brits than Fox News did “informing” Americans.

    Obviously the source matters. Pretending otherwise is ridiculous. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  14. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, what is extra disturbing about this is that we are not just any country. We are the world’s only superpower. What the American people know or don’t know has a profound effect beyond the borders of the US. Our ignorance can cause other people around the world to die.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A reader of the New York Times or a listern to NPR would easily overestimate the number of blacks killed by police every year, the number of blacks killed in hate crimes, the percentage of the population that is black or Jewish, would greatly underestimate the number of school age children on free lunch, in remedial class, and would greatly overestimate the number of school age children who are white.

    When hate facts are not allowed to be referenced, mentioned, or considered, then those readers/listeners will be uninformed. It goes to my old joke that a NY Times reader or NPR listener believes that every child can be taught calculus if enough money is spent on education when many of them do not understand calculus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 14

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @superdestroyer:

    It goes to my old joke that a NY Times reader or NPR listener believes that every child can be taught calculus if enough money is spent on education when many of them do not understand calculus.

    You must kill at the comedy clubs.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @superdestroyer:

    No, none of that is true. Obviously you don’t listen to NPR or read the NYT. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead you’ve accepted uncritically the Right’s parodies of the mainstream media.

    Real news outlets deal in facts. They tend to repeat those facts. So no, the people who consume that media do not have wildly incorrect information. That’s evident in debates here where the people on the left win 90% of fact-bases debates. If you consume Fox News you are not consuming news, you are consuming deliberate lies told by Roger Ailes through his various meat puppets.

    There is a difference. There is reality-based news, and then there is b.s. You obviously live on a diet of b.s. Many of us do not.

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  18. steve says:

    “a listern to NPR would easily overestimate the number of blacks killed by police every year, the number of blacks killed in hate crimes,”

    Nope. When they covered this they cited the actual numbers, as is typical of their coverage. They have longer stories rather than just the sound bite driven “news” on cable. They also went over the number of cops killed.

    Steve

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  19. Kylopod says:

    There are a few factors at work here.

    For one thing, people have a tendency to think when there’s a significant problem in society, it must be substantially beyond 10%. Yet a 10% unemployment rate, as America experienced in 2010 and 1982, is really bad. Also, the mere fact that a question appears on a poll tends to lead people to think it must be significant, so they are driven to “major” percentage numbers.

    It reminds me of polls I’ve seen showing that a majority of Americans mistakenly believe that foreign aid makes up a substantial portion of the federal budget. Foreign aid is, also, the only area of federal spending that a majority of Americans agree should be cut. I don’t believe it’s coincidence that Americans think the type of spending they like the least holds outsize importance in the budget. It helps convince people that cutting government spending requires no sacrifice.

    I was intrigued also, but not surprised, by the results of the question on Muslims. I’d be interested to see what the numbers are for Jews, because in my experience many people–including many Jews!–have a vastly overstated perception of how many Jews there are. Lots of people are very surprised to learn we make up only 2% of the population. (I’ve seen even political junkies make this error; for example, after a speaker at Sarah Palin’s church made some offensive remarks about Jews in 2008, Andrew Sullivan commented that the McCain/Palin ticket “just lost Florida.” Apart from the fact that this incident was never widely reported the way the Rev. Wright stuff was, Sullivan didn’t seem to realize that Jews make up less than 5% of Florida’s electorate, and a majority of them are solid Democrats anyway.) Part of what leads to this misperception is that Jews are so overrepresented in visible sectors of society, from Hollywood to the U.S. Senate. But sometimes a little good old-fashioned anti-Semitism plays a role. I think it’s that last point which especially applies to Muslims in the U.S.; just like people who are paranoid about Jewish control think there are more Jews than there actualy are, some people hold similar attitudes about Muslims.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: You’re right, I said that really poorly. The problem isn’t too many news sources, and it’s not wise to fix it by limiting your news sources. A diet including Fox News and CNN could actually be informative, and a diet of only the NY Times or WSJ would be too limiting.

    We have access to a lot of information sources these days. I wouldn’t say that I get my news from OTB, but this site does have current stories, and links to current stories, that add to my understanding of the news. Every source and every type of medium has defects and biases, though. An astute news consumer has to learn to take those into account. I mentioned the need to understand the difference between fact and opinion; that’s part of it. You also need to understand what portion of “analysis” is opinion, and what delivery systems of facts aren’t going to provide you with necessary context.

    I think in that whole survey, the most telling question was about the decrease in crime. That’s a case where the information being provided by our media is correct, but the context is missing. Those worry me. The unemployment one worries me less (note: opinion statement). I’d like it if people understood the definitions of our unemployment statistics, but I’d rather that people understood them in context. What I mean is, I wish the question had been framed like the crime-stats one. I think I’d rather that they’d all been framed that way. Is the number of retirees increasing or decreasing? Is the level of immigration increasing or decreasing? Compared to recent numbers, or long-term? That’s the kind of understanding I’d want to see. Increasing a person’s number of news sources won’t diminish that kind of understanding, as long as thy know how to filter information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    But of course NPR and the NYT would answer each of those questions correctly, while Fox News would deliberately distort them. Fox News thinks Sharia is coming to the US justice system. Fox News thinks there’s a war on Christmas. Fox News thinks we are being overrun by illegal immigrants. Fox News thinks racism does not exist.

    It would be great if people were able to parse the news, but the reality is that people have certain allegiances when it comes to news. They pick an outlet or two. When they pick Fox News they are choosing a diet of distortion and lies. Now, when they pick CNN they are picking a diet of panicky exaggeration alternating with droning boredom, so I’m not saying that’s my favorite choice, either. In a perfect world folks would check a dozen sources every day, but realistically that ain’t happening.

    Which is why it is important that we demand certain standards be maintained by people who provide news. The NYT, the WSJ, NPR, BBC, the Telegraph, the AP, and as amazing as it seems, Al Jazeera (America), are examples of news outlets that maintain a standard of credibility. Not that they don’t make mistakes, and not that they may not lean one way or the other, but they are in contact with reality and accept consensual reality. Fox News does not. Fox News is just Pravda with hot blondes, and they are far and away the most influential cable news channel.

    Furthermore, the fact that the Right has attacked real news for decades and insisted on substituting fantasy for reality has successfully undercut the ability of any reputable news outlet to inform the public. Roger Ailes is a bad man who has done terrible damage to American intellectual and political life. He is not the equivalent of CNN”s Jeff Zucker who is just a moron. Ailes is a deliberate, calculating liar. And you cannot consume a diet primarily consisting of of lies and then calmly, rationally judge your news.

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  22. Just Me says:

    @Kylopod:

    They also underestimate the cost of entitlements and most people get defense wrong as well.

    Also, any media at any time is capable of over covering certain crimes. A good example is gun crimes-people thing gun crimes are going up but like all the other crime statistics they have been going down.

    Also, the media is very prone to pretty white girl syndrome-when a pretty white girl gets kidnapped or murdered the proportion of coverage is huge and it isn’t just Fox News that gets caught up in this.

    I figure NPR probably does a decent job of avoiding overly sensationalizing a news topic but sometimes even when the facts are solid (as in accurate statistics are used) the amount of coverage may be what people focus on more so than some of the stats involved. Very few children are kidnapped by strangers (most are usually family members in a custody dispute) but when a child does get kidnapped or murdered the coverage is often over the top in print media and TV news to the point that in spite of the stats that say your child is very unlikely to get kidnapped by a stranger the coverage makes parents feel like it’s a major danger. My kid is far more likely to get killed in a car accident than kidnapped and murdered by a stranger but I still take them places in my car.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. Anonne says:

    Just ignore the WSJ’s opinion section. That’s Fox-lite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  24. al-Ameda says:

    Unless you’re reading the New York Times, listening to NPR, or watching PBS as your sole sources of news, you’re probably better off ignoring the news media altogether if your goal is to understand the world around you.

    Yes, the Reality-Based and Fact-Based media is usually a better source of information than, say, Fox News.

    That survey would have been complete if they asked the standard indicator of dumbness question: “What percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid?”

    We’ve known that the American people were (and are) dumbing down, this is nothing new. Take a look at the current House, and now, the new Senate – this is what happens when low value and low information voters run the table.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    Labor force participation rate is a misleading statistic, and always has been, because the people who tend to cite it as evidence of doom don’t understand it.

    For example, they tend not to know that the pool it examines includes people over the age of retirement (the pool is by definition people 16 years of age and older), but doesn’t include people serving in the military.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Americans Astoundingly Ignorant

    In other news, water is still wet …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Just Me:

    They also underestimate the cost of entitlements and most people get defense wrong as well.

    That’s the flip side of the point about foreign aid. Entitlements and defense spending are popular, so of course they must not consume an excessive part of the federal budget, because everyone knows the government only spends money on the things which don’t matter to average Americans. The government bureaucrats all sit in their fortress cackling about their nefarious plans to throw billions of dollars at unpopular programs, until Super-Jew swoops in (why Super-Jew? Because his enemy is pork, of course!) and slashes all the spending no one wanted anyway, and the deficit falls to zero, which of course saves the economy and the planet as well. Isn’t that how the world really works?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. Tyrell says:

    @Stonetools: CNN has the “breaking” news syndrome and plays everything up as a threat to the US. CNN and some of the other “Turner” channels are now off of our satellite provider, maybe never to return, but I miss TCM and Cartoon Channel. Of course, every time people see that message (“Removed by Turner”) they are probably blaming it all on Ted.
    I try now to get most news from the internet and local tv stations. I used to find out a lot of things on the CB radio, but nobody is on there anymore.
    There was a survey a few months ago. One of the questions concerned the three branches of government. Around 65% did not even know that there were three branches, let alone what they are. This could lead to a lengthy discourse on the state of the school system and education in this country, which I don’t have time for right now, maybe another day. The car race is getting ready to come on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    The car race is getting ready to come on.

    Will Kyle Busch hire an attorney before or after the race?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. wr says:

    @Pinky: “Getting your news from just NYT, NPR, and PBS would breed its own type of ignorance.”

    And what type would that be? I mean, aside from a lack of knowledge of the lies that Fox-tards believe?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  31. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    Getting your news from just NYT, NPR, and PBS would breed its own type of ignorance.

    Right. And no one was talking about abortion 40 years ago. :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  32. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    A diet including Fox News and CNN could actually be informative, and a diet of only the NY Times or WSJ would be too limiting.

    Or you could just follow BBC America or Al Jazeera America and be well informed.

    The thought of watching Fox and CNN every day makes me want to leap in front of a moving train. The takeaway from the CNN/Fox combo would be that our civilization is indeed in decline.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  33. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: He probably needs a lawyer right there in the garage area from start to finish, especially if Keslowski acts up again. Kurt’s brother Kyle used to get in all the trouble.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Mikey says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Labor force participation rate is a misleading statistic, and always has been, because the people who tend to cite it as evidence of doom don’t understand it.

    Yes, what I hear from conservatives is usually something along the lines of “so many people are just giving up even looking for work in the Obama economy.” They seem to forget about 10,000 Baby Boomers have turned 65 every day since January 1, 2011. They don’t all retire, but plenty of them do. So labor force participation drops, and we’ve known it would for decades. But to many conservatives, it’s Obama’s fault.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mikey:

    If Obama somehow found the cure for cancer, most of those people would bitch about how many oncologists would be unemployed. I’ve given up on those people. They have nothing but rage and fear, and it has consumed them.

    At this point, the best that we can hope for is 1) to isolate them by giving them enough political rope with which to hang themselves or 2) to contain them, and thereby limit the damage they can do, until they solve the problem that they represent on their own – by gracefully giving business to morticians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  36. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t really understand the Fox News obsession. Like millions of other conservatives out there, I don’t watch it. Conservatism, in its modern form, existed for decades before Fox News went on the air, and it is in no way dependent on it. I don’t get the feeling that your theory of politics accounts for well-read, decent people who disagree with your ideology. That’s why I keep thinking about that Haidt study that came up again recently. It’s far more common to find liberals who don’t understand how conservatives think than vice versa.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  37. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    Conservatism, in its modern form, existed for decades before Fox News went on the air, and it is in no way dependent on it.

    Ummm. No. I was a self-identified conservative in the 80’s. I was a registered Republican who voted for Reagan twice and GHW Bush in ’88.

    Conservatism, in its modern form, is rooted in the denial of reality and the refusal to work a President of the opposing party, or even acknowledge his legitimacy. Modern conservatives played chicken with a default, which is simply batshit crazy. It is the opposite of fiscal responsibility, more like a fiscal death wish.

    This is not your father’s conservatism, or even the conservatism of my youth. It is radical right extremism pretending to be conservatism. Back in the day, everyone knew Birchers were crazy radicals. Today’s conservative movement has a complete lack of insight into itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  38. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    You are ware are you not that a very substantial number of “conservatives” spent a number of years denying that Barack Obama – President of the United States — is an American citizen, right? You noticed that? How do you square that bizarre, racist, reality-denying truth with your benign notion of conservatism?

    Come on, cut the crap, here. As @Anjin-san points out, these are not Eisenhower conservatives or even Reagan conservatives. These are un-medicated mental patients who believe the President is an illegal alien, secret Muslim, Communist-Nazi who’s health care plan is a prelude to Armageddon.
    The modern conservative – the actual ones, not your sepia-toned wishful thinking version – are brainwashed lunatics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  39. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    In fact, here you go:

    A whopping 64 percent of Republicans think it’s “probably true” that President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life, including his possible birthplace, according to a new nationwide survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind project examining Americans’ belief in political conspiracy theories.

    That’s two out of three Republicans who will admit to believing something transparently crazy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  40. michael reynolds says:

    Google Fox News and Birthers, then Google MSNBC and 9-11 “truthers.”

    Here’s a round-up of Fox News support for birtherism. At least 52 segments suggesting that Barack Obama is not an American.

    And here’s where a minor MSNBC host, Touré, denies he’s a Truther.

    Your nuts get support from your house media. Our nuts get shot down by our house media.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Finally:

    Today we have new evidence that the tendency is real—and is much stronger on the right than left. It comes from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, which surveyed 2,901 people and divided them into five categories—“consistently liberal,” “mostly Liberal,” “mixed,” “mostly conservative,” and “consistently conservative”—based on 10 questions about their political values. Among consistently conservative respondents, 47 percent chose Fox News as their main source “for news about government and politics.” The next largest group, 11 percent, chose local radio. Responses among liberals, by contrast, were much more fragmented. Fifteen percent of consistently liberal respondents chose CNN, 13 percent chose NPR, 12 percent chose MSNBC and 10 percent chose the New York Times.

    (My bold)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. charles austin says:

    Yawn. A poll. I guess you need a better citizenry in place of those people who can live fat, dumb and happy due to burgeoning safety net. What are you advocating here, that an educated elite be allowed to make decisions for the hoi polloi?

    FWIW, U3 is becoming a less meaningful standalone statistic all the time. Ever notice how much the revisions down exceed the revisions up? Or how so very many people have given up looking for work after being unemployed for so long — and are conveniently left out of U3? With an ever larger population we have a lower percentage of people working year after year. Something has to give.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  43. charles austin says:

    And whatever you do don’t mention the takeover of Big Education by Washington.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  44. Irrational Behavior is an economic good just like any other. Since the marginal cost of irrational political beliefs is nearly zero in our society, the demand for it is very high.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  45. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @superdestroyer: Which “them”–the NPR listeners or the children? Faulty pronoun reference skills diminished the impact of your joke–that, and it’s not funny.

    And, while I am railing at you, is there a problem with people who don’t know calculus hoping that children might have a chance to learn it? Do you feel that it’s funny when people who can’t read think that more money should be spend on reading education, too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  46. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: You comment reminded me of a time that I was surfing through the news channels at my motel this past summer vacation (back from Korea where I don’t get any of these stations on basic cable):

    CNN: Coming up next, an interview with a close associate of Whitey Bulger (he was in the news that week, I can’r remember why)

    CNBC: More on Whitey Bulger coming up.

    Fox News: Why is the Obama administration forcing Catholics to quit their jobs? We’ll have the details coming up.

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  47. @Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker:

    In 2011 he was finally captured after being a wanted fugitive fore almost 20 years.

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  48. anjin-san says:

    @charles austin:

    who can live fat, dumb and happy due to burgeoning safety net.

    If you think people who are dependent on government assistance are somehow living large, I’m going to suggest that you need to get out more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  49. wr says:

    @charles austin: “And whatever you do don’t mention the takeover of Big Education by Washington.”

    No, we’ll leave that, as usual, to paranoid conspiracy freaks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  50. humanoid.panda says:

    @charles austin:

    FWIW, U3 is becoming a less meaningful standalone statistic all the time. Ever notice how much the revisions down exceed the revisions up?

    The real world:

    For reasons that remain largely mysterious, these initial estimates have tended to be highly cyclical, underestimating job losses during the recession, and then systematically underestimating job gains during the recovery. During the current economic recovery, the initial estimate of nonfarm payrolls has understated monthly employment growth by an average of 28,500 job

    Kinda ironic posting this kind of thing in a thread about people inventing their own facts as they go along,no?

    And of course, even if you were right about the revisions, you’d still be making a very foolish argument. If the government was faking the data, as you are implying, why would it revise downward anyway? If they lied the first time around, what exactly would compel them to reveal the truth in the second go-round?

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  51. Grewgills says:

    @Kylopod:

    Part of what leads to this misperception is that Jews are so overrepresented in visible sectors of society, from Hollywood to the U.S. Senate.

    Don’t forget the Supreme Court.

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  52. Todd says:

    @anjin-san:

    This is not your father’s conservatism, or even the conservatism of my youth. It is radical right extremism pretending to be conservatism. Back in the day, everyone knew Birchers were crazy radicals. Today’s conservative movement has a complete lack of insight into itself.

    See: http://claireconner.com/

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  53. michael reynolds says:

    @charles austin:

    You just did an excellent job proving our point. Thanks to you poor Pinky – your more rational and smarter counterpart – can’t even respond. You are the living proof of the utter dishonesty of the Right. Thanks.

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  54. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: You turn to Salon to provide context for understanding Republicans. Interesting.

    According to the study, 64% of Republicans replied “true” or “likely true” to the statement “President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life”. There was no mention of birthplace. I daresay that every candidate could be described as hiding important information about his background and early life. The survey is located at publicmind.fdu.edu/2013/outthere/and was conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University. It’s pretty depressing.

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  55. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m surprised the consistent conservative viewership of Fox News is so high. I don’t buy that the consistent liberal is so fragmented, though. 50% cited CNN, NPR, NYT, or MSNBC as their primary new source? you can call that variety if you want, but I wouldn’t. Of course, as I was saying earlier, your primary news source probably isn’t as important as the number and variety of your sources, as well as your ability to contextualize the information from them.

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  56. humanoid.panda says:

    @Pinky: If you can’t grasp the difference between the New York Times and CNN as sources of information, then God help you..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  57. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    So liberals go to 4 sources, none of them dominating, only one of which (MSNBC) can be said to be a Left-wing political outlet, and you don’t see the difference between that and conservatives relying solely on a single provably dishonest, provably politicized network run by a man who was a political operative for both Nixon and Reagan.

    Tell me, what am I supposed to conclude from that?

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  58. aFloridian says:

    @superdestroyer: @superdestroyer:

    Michael is right here. I am a centrist Republican and my principal news sources are NPR, BBC, and USa Today (quick scanning on my phone) with about a dozen other sources ranging from Huffpost to the Blaze I read occasionally to take “the pulse” of ideology on a particular topic.

    NPR is bar none the most fair, informative, and enjoyable news currently available. Now, are they occasionally liberal? Yes, and they certain use liberal code words – people of color, undocumented migrant, marriage equality, and machine gun/ semi-automatic BUT anyone of reasonable intelligence can draw their own conclusions. The facts presented are even-handed, and they ask tough questions of both sides. It is very clear that most of the journalists themselves are liberal and have a liberal bias, but the actual coverage does not usually allow this to bleed through.

    So, superdestroyer, your conclusions about NPR are entirely wrong, but are typical for the nonsense I hear slandering NPR as the official public relations arm of the Soviet Union or somesuch.

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  59. Pinky says:

    @aFloridian: That ties into the point I was trying to make, the importance of understanding the weaknesses in your news sources.

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  60. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    the importance of understanding the weaknesses in your news sources.

    Seeing as how you hold this rather extraordinary view

    Conservatism, in its modern form, existed for decades before Fox News went on the air, and it is in no way dependent on it.

    I’m going to opine that you have no business talking about “understanding the weaknesses in your news sources” unless you are putting yourself forth as an example of what happens when you fall short in this area.

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