In the public relations business, we spend most of our time trying to get news items into a newspaper or magazine, on TV or radio, or, as a last resort, on the InterWeb. The assumption is that there are consumers out there actually consuming ours and the news organizations’ product.
Well, according to a test given by the Pew Center for Research, we certainly keep the “ass” in “assumption” with that one. You can take the test here and instantly compare your score with everyone else who has taken it.
Seems as a nation we’re pretty ill-informed about stuff in the news. Granted, the test is skewed mainly toward political awareness and issues, but most of the questions deal with items that have not been reported just once or twice or for a week, but every day, like the unemployment rate, the U.S. debt load, how many Republicans voted in favor of a bill in the Senate, etc.
I took the test and of course got all 12 questions correct, but then I read a daily newspaper, two news weeklies, listen to National Public Radio and subscribe to several online newsletters and news sources. My perfect score placed me in the 98th percentile, the top 2 percent.
The results are pretty much what you’d expect — if you were an intellectual giant like me:
- 66 percent got six or fewer questions correct
- 6 percent got no correct answers
- Demographically, I was destined for excellence because I am male, a college graduate and over 50
- Which makes me really glad I’m not an 18- to 29-year-old female high school dropout
OK, maybe I’m making too much of a test that asks things like how much of its oil does the U.S. import or who is Stephen Colbert, but shouldn’t these be considered the basic stuff you need to know to make decisions every day, to form political opinions, to have interesting conversations.
I suppose the results of this test highlight the fact that, though we have more sources of more news than have ever been available in the history of the world, we’d rather watch a video on YouTube or tweet about what we had for lunch or post to Facebook a photo of a friend sucking on a beer bong than catch the latest news.
That explains the rise of the Tea Party, whose motto could be, “I Dunno Anything, But I Know What I Don’t Like.”