A Political Quiz, Plus Results

October 18, 2008

Apologies if this is becoming a political blog, but that is what is going on right now in the USA.

I found an interesting political quiz today…

1)  Which Political Party has a majority in the US House of Representatives?

2)  Who is the Secretary of State?

3)  Who is the Prime Minister of Great Britain?

Well?  How many did you get right?  [See bottom of post for answers]  And if you did not get them all, don’t worry, only 18% of Americans did.

Now, the interesting part of this survey was that the pollsters asked the respondents what news magazines they read or what TV news programs they watched, then correlated the results together.  Unfortunately, the article did not have a complete set of results, probably because it was digested by a reporter before being posted on the internet.  I swear, that’s the job of a journalist these days: to reduce the amount of information available, not increase it!

  • The New Yorker/Atlantic: 71 percent (correctly identified Democrats as the majority in the House), 71 percent (correctly identified Condeleeza Rice), 59 percent (correctly identified Gordon Brown)
  • NPR: 73 percent, 72 percent, 57percent
  • Hannity & Colmes: 84 percent, 73 percent, 49 percent
  • Rush Limbaugh: 83 percent, 71 percent, 41 percent
  • Colbert Report: 73 percent, 65 percent, 49 percent
  • Daily Show: 65 percent, 48 percent, 36 percent
  • NewsHour: 66 percent, 52 percent, 47 percent
  • O’Reilly Factor: 70 percent, 60 percent, 41 percent
  • C-SPAN: 63 percent, 59 percent, 35 percent
  • Letterman/Leno: 51 percent, 42 percent, 31 percent
  • CNN: 59 percent, 48 percent, 29 percent
  • National Enquirer: 44 percent, 32 percent, 22 percent

[Taken from LiveScience]

Hmmm…  The New Yorker has an intelligent readership.  Who knew?  NPR is right behind them (in fact, ahead of them on the first two questions), again, no surprise there.  But wait, Hannity and Colmes is third?!?!  Well, those people obviously did not learn any of that information from H&C, since they are not in the business of conveying information, only screaming senseless diatribes at one another.

Now look at Rush Limbaugh’s percentages.  He is right behind H&C (and close to NPR and the New Yorker) on the first two questions (on Domestic politics) but lacking on the third question (international, i.e. British, politics)  Continuing down the list we find the Colbert Report and the Daily Show at unusually prestigious places on the list.  According to the reporter, this is because of the high number of college students among their viewers.  Interesting.  I would like to see the raw data so I could weight the data to show what the results would have been if each show had the exact same demographics.  But I am a scientist, what do I know?

We then see the unusual triumvirate of O’Reilly, C-SPAN, and Jay Leno AHEAD of CNN!  HA!  They may be “The Most Trusted Name in News,” but they haven’t aired a single FACT since 1996!  FOX News’ shows are all above CNN on this poll, providing further humor.

Well, CNN wasn’t last, I’ll give that to ’em.  So who did they beat?  The National Enquirer!  Wow, CNN, you should be really proud about this one.  New tag line:  “The Second-Least Informative Name in News.”

The really interesting part of this whole article is not to be found in the numbers (heresy for a physicist), but the assumptions.  The journalist who wrote this article automatically assumes we, the people,  receive our information from the journalists working for these sources.  S/he imagines that journalists are the giver of knowledge, etc.  But they at no time had blogs or AP or Reuters or any sort of web-based source of information listed in the survey.  That is where I get my information, where I can cut through the partisanship and bias (which is still ever-present, of course) to find a glimmer of truth and understanding.  Or try.

“Understanding is a three edged sword:  Your side, their side, and the truth.”

~Kosh Nanarek

Answers:  1)  Democrats, 2)  Condoleeza Rice, 3)  Gordon Brown


One Response to “A Political Quiz, Plus Results”

  1. drbolte Says:


    and i don’t even watch the news.

    i just chase everything british with an unnatural affection. also, i was very sad to see tony blair go. also…i sometimes watch those crazy house of commons question and answer sessions. they’re hilarious.

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