Why Am I Not Surprised?

The Washington Post recently reported on a study conducted by political scientists Kyle Dropp (Dartmouth College) Joshua D. Kertzer (Harvard University) and  Thomas Zeitzoff  (Princeton University).

Here’s their description of the study.

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

Here, in a nutshell (pun sort of intended), is the problem of our times: the loudest voices, the partisans arguing with the most certainty and the least nuance, belong to the people who know the least about the matter at hand.

What makes it even worse is that we elect so many of them.