Reality Check

Nate Silver reminds us of the political knowledge gaps in this country. (Sources are linked in the original post.)

“We’ve repeatedly highlighted Kaiser’s health care polling, which revealed that only about half of the public knows about many of the key provisions that are in the Democrats’ bill, such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, a Pew poll this week found that only 26 percent of Americans know that it takes 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster — and only 32 percent know that Senate GOPers voted unanimously against the Democrats’ health care plan. And a Rasmussen poll of likely voters found that only 21 percent of them believe that the Democrats have cut taxes for “95% of working families”, a fact which is probably true.

I don’t particularly blame the public for this. The number of politics “fans” probably numbers somewhere on the order of 10 or 20 million out of a country of 250 million adults. Most people have lives and have better things to do than to follow politics all the time. They pay quite a bit of attention during Presidential elections and, I would argue, make reasonably sophisticated decisions. But outside of that, most people aren’t watching MSNBC or Fox News every evening or logging onto the Washington Post or FiveThirtyEight. They’re developing impressions based on limited information, often gleaned from partisan news sources and politicians who have an incentive to tell them anything but the truth.”

One possible reaction to this is self-righteous anger about the willful ignorance of the electorate, blah, blah, blah. Another one is to find hope in the fact that many of these people don’t actually disagree with what’s on the table and so they can be reached.

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