Americans Know More about ISIS and the Minimum Wage, Less about Poverty Level and Government Spending

Sunday, October 05, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The level of familiarity Americans have with current affairs can largely depend on what the mainstream media is focused on, a new poll shows.


The Pew Research Center quizzed about 1,000 individuals on a variety of topics to see how much they know on domestic and foreign policy subjects. You can take the test here before some of the responses are revealed below.


The questions most respondents got right was that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour at 73% and that Syria is one of the Middle East countries partially occupied by ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) at 67%.


Both of these subjects have received considerable coverage in the news. ISIS has been a leading topic since militants took over large sections of Iraq, and increasing the minimum wage was a major policy initiative of President Barack Obama’s until recently.


Sixty percent of respondents knew that Ukraine, whose fighting with Russia has been making headlines for months, was once part of the Soviet Union.


But there were plenty of subjects that fewer than 30% of respondents understood, perhaps because the media have paid less attention to those stories.


Only 20% of respondents knew that 15% of Americans live below the poverty line, and 20% knew that the federal government spends more on Social Security than any other program. A slightly higher number, 24%, though, did know the name of the new chairperson of the Federal Reserve: Janet Yellen.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

What a Quiz Tells Us about US News Habits (BBC)

From ISIS to Unemployment: What Do Americans Know? (Pew Research Center) (pdf)

News IQ Quiz (Pew Research Center)

90% of Americans Value Scientific Research, but Only 74% Know that the Earth Revolves Around the Sun (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Scott 1 year ago
The article is misleading or just plain wrong. Payouts for the SSA are offset by incoming revenues. The shortfall was $160billion this year. The Defense Department budget is just under $500 billion and there are no offsets.
DRS 2 years ago
"the federal government spends more on Social Security than any other program" Woe! wait a minute! Me and millions of other Americans have paid into social security all our live! If the assholes in the government had truly invested this money or just saved in a bank like the rest of use had, rather than spending as fast as they got it they would not now be spending any money on social security. True they did extend payments to other aspect such as dependent children, disability and I have no idea what else, but each time time this was done we were assured that there was money to cover it. This is not a government payment!

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