JUST THE FACTS: Scientific Survey Finds Voters of All Parties, Ages and Genders are Broadly Misinformed
By James D. Agresti // November 2, 2018
do your homework, be an informed voter
EDITOR’S NOTE: It can be easy to think that simply voting is doing your part, regardless of if you really understand what you’re voting for. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being an informed voter means to be knowledgeable about the issues and positions of candidates when voting. It also means you are able to make decisions without influence from outside factors intended to persuade those who may not fully understand a candidate’s platform or ideas.
The upcoming mid-term election is being touted as perhaps the most critical mid-term election in our nation’s history. Unfortunately, the compelling, comprehensive, highly regarded annual scientific survey of voter knowledge recently posted on JustFacts, a think tank dedicated to publishing rigorously documented facts about public policy issues, clearly shows a widespread dearth of knowledge related to the key issues affecting the lives of U.S. voters.
With only five days left until election day, make sure that you’ve done your homework and researched the candidates and the proposed Amendments before casting your ballot.
– Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief
At a recent “get-out-the-vote” rally in Las Vegas, former first lady Michelle Obama declared that people don’t have to be informed in order to vote. All they need, she said, is to “be a citizen,” “have opinions,” and want “a say in what happens.”
She emphasized, “I’ve been voting since I was 18 years old—and trust me—I didn’t know nothing about nothing at 18 years old.”
In contrast, James Madison—the father of the Constitution and primary author of the Bill of Rights—stressed that voters “must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Failure to do this, he said, will produce government that is “a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
The results of a new scientific survey indicate that voters of all ages, political parties, and genders are following Obama’s lead instead of Madison’s. Moreover, the survey shows that many voters are not only uninformed about major issues—they are positively misinformed.
Those are the findings of an annual, national poll commissioned by Just Facts, a non-profit research and educational institute. The poll was conducted by an academic research firm that used sound methodologies to assess U.S. residents who regularly vote.
While most surveys measure public opinion, this unique one measures voters’ knowledge of issues that affect their lives in tangible ways—such as education, taxes, healthcare, the national debt, pollution, government spending, Social Security, global warming, energy, and hunger. Every year, the poll includes a new question about a prevalent, controversial issue. This year, the question is about rape.
Results For All Voters
For each question, voters were offered a selection of two or more answers, one of which was true. Voters also had the opportunity to say they were unsure.
On average, voters gave the correct answer 40% of the time, gave an incorrect answer 53% of the time, and said they were unsure 7% of the time. A majority of voters gave the correct answer to only six of the 24 questions.
The highest levels of misinformation were found on questions related to child hunger, tax burdens, landfills, health insurance copayments, and Social Security finances. For these questions, 25% or less of voters provided the correct answer.
Results by Age, Gender, and Politics
The survey also recorded voters’ ages, genders, and political party preferences. This allows the poll to pinpoint segments of society that are most and least informed about specific issues.
The results show deep partisan and demographic divides, with different groups being more or less knowledgeable depending upon the questions.
In total, the rates at which voters gave the correct answers varied from a high of 47% for Republican voters to a low of 34% for Democrat voters:
- 47% for Republican voters
- 43% for males
- 42% for 35 to 64-year-olds
- 41% for 18 to 34-year-olds
- 38% for 65+-year-olds
- 38% for third-party voters
- 37% for females
- 34% for Democrat voters
The questions, answers, full survey results and methodologies are available here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a think tank dedicated to publishing rigorously documented facts about public policy issues. His writings have been cited by numerous major media outlets, academic publications, think tanks, and government entities. A brief sampling includes CBS, PBS, Investor’s Business Daily, Yahoo News, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas at Austin, National Review, the Huffington Post, Roll Call, Encyclopædia Britannica, the Journal of Global Faultlines, the International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research, the Heritage Foundation, the Wisconsin Legislature, the Oklahoma Department of Labor, and the education ministry of Northern Ireland.
Jim holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University and has worked as a designer of jet aircraft engines, a technical sales professional, and chief engineer of a firm that customizes helicopters. He is also the author of Rational Conclusions, a meticulously researched and acclaimed book evidencing factual support for the Bible across a broad array of academic disciplines.
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