So it may or may not surprise you to learn that those findings (from about 3-4 years ago) have been borne out--and then some--in a recent Pew Research Center study. Editor & Publisher sums it up:
[D]espite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans' knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.
Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot -- with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.
Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly. Fox topped only network morning show viewers.
The producers of the Today Show and GMA must be proud indeed.
Here at p3 we're certainly proud of our boys--even if it's only a reflection of how low the bar has really been set these days. Hard to imagine Comedy Central ad salesmen going to their clients and saying, "Good news--our viewers are smarter than Geraldo Rivera's!" Still, as Stewart and Colbert would probably be the first (not counting Don Rumsfeld) to acknowledge, you go with whatever you've got.
One last thought: According to the Pew Report, 31% of Americans polled couldn't name the current Vice President of the United States. (That's down 5% from 1989.)
Thirty-one percent can't name the Vice President? That's roughly the same number that still, to the astonishment of the rest of the nation, continue to give Bush a favorable job approval rating.
I think we've finally found their base.
(Cover photo from Rolling Stone.)