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“Americans are Embarrassingly Ill-Informed”, but why?

By The Center for Civic Literacy on May 15, 2015 in Civic Blog

Given our recent blog post about “Why Hoosiers Don’t Vote” and the low scores in Civics on the most recent Nation’s Report Card Report it is easy to derive that Americans are uninformed and unengaged. Also, given the embarrassingly low 7% voter turnout in the Indianapolis primaries last week, it is clear this is not just a national issue.  Low levels of civic engagement are issues at both local and national levels.

But why?

We came across a recent post by Alternet, which excerpts the book by Rick Shenkman, “Just How Stupid are We?  Facing the Truth about the American Voter.” The article starts off by citing some critical facts that we here at the center know all too well:

“About 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half of Americans can name at least two members of the fictional cartoon family, according to a survey.

“The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.”

These stats, although disturbing, are informative and give an insight to the American public.  We know that citizens are uneducated and unengaged on political issues as a whole, but why?  The author of this article goes in more detail by saying the majority of American voters are not fully aware of our political system or issues.  This author states that this is largely due to Americans’ stupidity which he believes is characterized by five traits, (Ignorance, Negligence, Wooden-Headedness, Shortsightedness, and Bone- Headedness).

We encourage you to read more about the uninformed voting populace and the harms in the original conversation, here.  Let this spark other conversations in your life about what it means to be an informed voter and how we can encourage others to do so.


*Excerpts are from the original post which was published on Alternet on March 16, 2015.

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Whitney FieldsView all posts by Whitney Fields


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