Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Are We Really That Ignorant ???


The polling business expands almost weekly. You can find a poll that one in four Americans believe in just about anything. A Pew poll found that 26 percent of adults believe spiritual energy indwells trees, stones, and inanimate objects. And 25 percent put stock in astrology.

The business of estimating what Americans believe, or think about something, is a huge industry. A new poll comes out every week on politics or sex. Polls help fill newspaper space when Brittany Spears or the millionaire Hilton girl fails another sobriety test.

If you read the polls and it agrees with our views, you think it is another sign of how smart people are. But if the polls results go against the grain, you ask yourself, “are we really that ignorant?”

I’ve written about the Baylor University senior who was going to work in Japan and could not find it on a huge wall map. According to Time Magazine and Newsweek, and other pollsters, the poor fellow is not alone.

With a map before them, young Americans were ask to find Iraq. After seven years with hundreds of thousands of Americans being based in Iraq, only 63 percent could find the country. Only a third of Americans of all ages could find the continent where the world’s largest river runs. (It’s the Amazon River is in South America.)

Barely half of Americans were correctly able to state that Judaism was older than both Christianity and Islam. Another 41 percent were not sure. For those in doubt, the three strains of Father Abraham were founded in this order: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

A Zogby Poll ask readers to name at least two of the seven dwarfs. Not quite three-quarters could name two of the Snow White dwarfs. Then they were ask to name at least two members of the Supreme Court. Not quite a quarter could do that. Disney reigns.

The majority of Americans – three in four – correctly identified Larry, Curley and Moe as the Three Stooges. To put that in context, only two out of five could correctly identify the executive, legislative and judicial branches as the three wings of government.

Local and national polls are all over the charts when it comes to the freedom of smoking, where they please and when they please.

Opinion polls on when and where an adult may smoke has touched a tender spot with many a smoker and non-smoker. It is almost as hot an issue as religion and politics. In the old days, the time between Sunday school and morning worship was for the men, led by the deacons, to step outside for a quick smoke. This I witnessed as a boy at the town church (First Baptist, Brownwood) and the country church (Stag Creek Church, Comanche County). New Orleans pastor J.D. Gray enjoyed a big cigar as did England’s greatest pulpiteer, Charles H. Spurgeon. Back then medical doctors not only smoked but were the heart of tobacco industry’s poster boys.

Smoking rates by state vary widely, with smoking twice as prevalent in some states as in others. States with the most highly educated residents tend to have the lowest smoking rates and vice versa. Smoking is also lower in states with higher cigarette taxes and broader smoking bans. Now mayors and city councils are faced with the big problem of where to allow smoking in public places. It is easily solved by taking the side of health over commerce.

Some unknown polling source, with unusual courage, announced blonds were smarter than brunettes? It must have been some estúpido brunettes thinking blond hair would make them smarter. (Learned the Spanish word for “stupid” last week when I did something estúpido.)


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