• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

The Less Americans Know About Ukraine, The More They Support Intervening There

Ukraine On Map

Some interesting conclusions from the guys at The Monkey Blog:

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, 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. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

(…)

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 — roughly the distance from Chicago to Los Angeles — locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north.

(…)

[T]he further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene 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, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests; all of these effects are statistically significant at a 95 percent  confidence level. 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 militarily.

On some level, I suppose, this isn’t entirely surprising. People often have very strongly held opinions about matters they know very little about, and this is probably just another example of that phenomenon. At the same time, though, it’s also another example of how little many Americans actually know about the world outside our borders. Simple facts such as the location of a nation really ought not to be that hard to teach people.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia, but the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off — roughly the distance from Chicago to Los Angeles — locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north.

    I’m surprised they came that close.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. wr says:

    If I were doing the poll, I’d ask these questions:

    1) Do you favor military invervention in Ukraine?

    2) Do you favor military intervention in Ukraine if it means either you or your children will have to go fight there?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Mu says:

    You’d think that with all that talk about Crimea, people would have no trouble locating the Ukraine next to it, after all it’s a pretty distinctive feature on the map. Of course, that would require someone to know which sea the Crimea is located in, and where to find said sea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. @wr:

    3) Do you favor military intervention in Ukraine if it means a tax increase to pay for it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. Mu says:

    wr, I would also add: “You’re commanding the 1st (and only) US Armored Division at Ft. Hood. You’re to occupy Kiev. How do you get there?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. michael reynolds says:

    This is why my first response to Ukraine hotheads is always, “Go find a map, show me how we get there.” Because it’s either German and American troops driving through Poland, Slovakia or Romania, and someone’s going to have to ask those countries just how much they love the idea of being the front line in a superpower shooting war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. Pinky says:

    In their defense, about 80% of the people had Ukraine along the old Soviet borders (at least from my eyeballing of the map). Not ideal, I realize. But there’s a big difference between thinking it’s in Portugal and thinking it’s in Kazakhstan. It bothers me that the people behind this study don’t appear to take that into account.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. ET says:

    I think your own map is out of date, with “Yug.” instead of Serbia and Montenegro.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Tillman says:

    My knowledge of Ukraine only goes about as far as remembering one Ukrainian exchange student we had in high school German class. Oh, and playing “The Great Gate of Kiev” in seventh grade band class.

    I imagine if I didn’t get it, I would’ve erred towards Kazakhstan. I know where Portugal and Finland are, and Sudan’s on the wrong continent.

    @Mu: I couldn’t have said where Crimea was three weeks ago. I honestly thought Crimea was an antiquated name like Siam or Rhodesia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: Everyone knows Crimea is that milk substitute you put in coffee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    I thought it was a large stream.

    Crimea river

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. grewgills says:

    @grewgills:
    That was terrible and I apologize. I blame lack of sleep for my poor punning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0