Pew News IQ Survey: Americans Know King, But Not Politics


According to a recent Pew Research Center News IQ survey, 91% of Americans know who civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is based on his picture.

The survey, conducted with 3,147 adults between March 10 and April 6, attempted to discover how well Americans know the world using pictures, maps and words.  Participants are part of the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Results show that 96% of millennials (those aged 18 to 34) knew who King was, as well as 89% of older generations.  Participants were shown a photo and asked to choose between King, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson and Thurgood Marshall.

82% of survey takers could also properly identify Kim Jong-un from his photograph and knew which country he leads.

Most of the population did well when it came to recognizing faces from photos.  In one example, 63% could recognize Pakistani advocate for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai as the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In addition, 84% of survey takers knew that in order to comply with Obama’s health care law, they must say they have health insurance coverage on their taxes.

However, when it came to US politics, the population did not do so well.  Only 51% could pick out Elizabeth Warren from a series of four photographs, which also included Nancy Pelosi, Deb Fischer and Tammy Baldwin.  On a positive note, that number is up from January 2013, when only 43% could pick her out from the same set of photos.  A separate survey from the Pew Research Center released on April 2 found that 38% of registered voters did not know who Warren was.

When it came to knowing the partisan balance of the Senate, only 52% could do so correctly when shown images of partisan configurations.  While 21% said the GOP has a larger Senate majority, 10% believed Democrats held the majority and 6% said the balance was 50-50.

The public was shown to know very little concerning the Supreme Court.  Only 33% of Americans know how many women are seated on the Supreme Court.  A larger number, 39%, felt that there were 2 women, 14% said there was only one, and 4% believed there to be 4.

There was no large education gap present among participants, as at least half of those who hold a high school education or less answered at least 8 of the 12 questions correctly.

The largest gap in education was found in the question concerning Pope Francis’ native country.  While most of post-graduates (81%) and college graduates (71%) knew that the pope is originally from Argentina, only 43% of those still in college and 38% holding a high school diploma or less knew the answer.

Meanwhile, about nine in ten of all education levels were able to identify Martin Luther King Jr.

05 4, 2015