Scientific Survey Finds Voters Are “Broadly Misinformed”

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A survey has revealed that voters in the US aren’t nearly as informed as they think they are.

The scientific survey was conducted by Just Facts, a non-profit research and educational institute dedicated to publishing comprehensive, straightforward, and rigorously documented facts about public policy issues.

Today, the organization published the findings of their recent survey, and they are intriguing – and troubling.

This survey is not like other political polls, as James D. Agresti, Just Facts president and co-founder, explains:

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.

The poll was conducted by an academic research team that used sound methodologies to assess US residents who regularly vote.

From the report:

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.

Voters’ ages, genders, and political party preferences were recorded, allowing the poll to “pinpoint segments of society that are most and least informed about specific issues.”

Not surprisingly, the survey results show “deep partisan and demographic divides, with different groups being more or less knowledgeable depending upon the questions.”

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 survey consists of 24 questions with correct answers and the percentage of voters who provided the correct answers is given per political affiliation, gender, and age.

Here are three of the questions that were asked, along with the correct answers and data on who got the answers right.

On taxes:

Question 5: The average U.S. household spends about $29,000 per year on food, housing, and clothing combined. If we broke down all combined federal, state, and local taxes to a per household cost, do you think this would amount to more or less than an average of $29,000 per household per year?

Correct Answer: More than $29,000. In 2017, federal, state and local governments collected a combined total of $5.0 trillion in taxes or an average of $40,000 for every household in the U.S.

Correct answer given by 46% of all voters, 39% of Democrat voters, 50% of Republican voters, 58% of third-party voters, 47% of males, 45% of females, 58% of 18 to 34 year olds, 49% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 40% of 65+ year olds.

On government spending:

Question 7: Now, changing the subject from taxes to spending, suppose we broke down all government spending to a per household cost—do you think the combined spending of federal, state and local governments amounts to more or less than $40,000 per household per year?

Correct Answer: More than $40,000. In 2017, federal, state and local governments spent a combined total of $6.6 trillion or an average of $52,000 for every household in the U.S. For reference, the average U.S. household spends about $44,000 per year on food, housing, clothing, transportation, and healthcare.

Correct answer given by 44% of all voters, 38% of Democrat voters, 51% of Republican voters, 35% of third-party voters, 47% of males, 40% of females, 47% of 18 to 34 year olds, 46% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 40% of 65+ year olds.

On healthcare:

Question 23: In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” This law uses price controls to save money in the Medicare program. Do you think these price controls will worsen Medicare patients’ access to care?

Correct Answer: Yes. As explained by Medicare’s actuaries, the price controls in the Affordable Care Act will cut Medicare prices for many medical services over the next three generations to “less than half of their level under the prior law.” The actuaries have been clear that this will likely cause “withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market” and “severe problems with beneficiary access to care.”

Correct answer given by 47% of all voters, 17% of Democrat voters, 75% of Republican voters, 56% of third-party voters, 47% of males, 47% of females, 41% of 18 to 34 year olds, 49% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 46% of 65+ year olds.

To read the entire report, additional data, and an explanation of the survey methodology, click here: Scientific Survey Finds Voters of All Parties, Ages, and Genders Are Broadly Misinformed

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