The Blog

Pew Political IQ Poll: Republicans Consistently More Knowledgeable

11:40 AM, Oct 28, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

You likely won't see this poll result elsewhere, so I thought I'd highlight it here. This is a Pew Political IQ test conducted over the phone with 1,002 adults from Oct. 1-4. They were asked 12 questions, and answered an average of 5.3 questions correctly, according to Pew.

But here's the part you likely haven't heard about:


Under a section called "Partisan Knowledge Gap," we find Republicans were more knowledgeable by a double-digit factor on four issues. Although the Glenn Beck question is naturally easier for Republicans, the other three issues are basic political knowledge- what "cap-and-trade" means, who's in control of the House, and who the new Supreme Court Justice is (a question that should perhaps be easier for Democrats). Republicans also led Democrats on identifying the unemployment rate, Fed chairman, Dow level, Max Baucus' position. Republicans correctly answered an Iran/Israel question and an Afghanistan question more often than Dems. Republicans and Democrats were even on identifying the "public option" as a health-care plan.

But take heart, Democrats: You lead Republicans by five points on a whopping one question.

The result is a repeat of a Pew Political IQ test conducted in March, which asked 12 slightly different questions and found Republicans more knowledgeable on 10 questions, even with Democrats on one, and lagging Democrats on just one (number of troops killed in Iraq). Those results are available under the helpful subhead, "Republicans more knowledegable," but I don't remember too many articles using that as a lede.

By contrast, you'll remember copious coverage of the Democracy Corps' focus groups under the title, "The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans"- another in a long line of "conservatives are crazy" pseudo-scientific studies that are giddily regurgitated by mainstream media every year with very serious eyebrow furrows of faux objectivity.

An April 2007 Pew Quiz showed this about partisan difference: "Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to be represented in the high-knowledge group. But significantly fewer Republicans (26%) than Democrats (31%) fall into the third of the public that knows the least."

A September 2007 quiz showed more Republicans than Democrats could identify even the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

It looks like conservatives do indeed live in a separate world from liberals- one occupied by 40 percent of the American electorate, where most people know what Tim Geithner's job is.

That's my Stuart Smalley affirmation for our readers. After all, if the polling had gone the other way, the NYT would shout it from the rooftops. I figure since you get told by the media you're crazy all the time, it's worth telling you polling confirms you are crazy- crazy like a fox.