Thinking Aloud: Ignorance is… Bliss?

I was (as per during my afternoon commute) listening to NPR yesterday, where they reported that 45% of Americans don’t know what the Supreme Court ruled on the healthcare law (PPACA or Obamacare). I couldn’t find NPR’s story, so here’s a link to Poytner’s coverage. This breaks out to nearly 30% not knowing there was a ruling, and 15% THINKING THE ACA HAD ALREADY BEEN STRUCK DOWN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

I am left nearly wordless at this news. This parses to me as: 30% of Americans don’t consume any news whatsoever. Not newspapers, radio shows, local news, cable news, Internet sites. And 15% just believing whatever the hell they want to believe.

As an exercise in time wasting, last Monday I went and took this quiz from the Kaiser Foundation about the PPACA. I got 10 out of 10, and frankly I think that’s something to brag about. The results page was very discouraging, however. One of the questions has a mere 27% of people getting it right.

I sincerely don’t understand the trend toward not being informed. With true facts, not the shit that the talking heads on the news tell you. Is it really that hard to educate yourself? By my estimation, I could have found out the real answers to the quiz questions (if I didn’t already know them) in about an hour. Maybe less. Granted, it requires a certain tech savvy-ness and access to a computer in my case — that’s how I would educate myself.

Now differing opinions I get. I really do understand that not everyone thinks Obamacare (let alone Obama) is good for the country. And I am willing to talk about differences in opinion. But don’t give me a statement like, “Obama is ruining this country!” without some facts to base that on. Don’t tell me that Obamacare is “government run healthcare”. Because it’s just not.

So why don’t people inform themselves, educate themselves, fact check, and/or consume news — real news, not just spin, blogs, or editorials? Why are 45% of Americans in the dark? Willfully? And don’t blame it on age, either. I may have not been the most informed 20-something back in the day, but I knew the basic facts in the news. I remember the day the first Gulf War started — where I was and what I was doing. I was 19 years old. And, no, my parents didn’t call to tell me.

I’m serious. I’d like to understand. Why do so many people choose to be ignorant?

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10 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud: Ignorance is… Bliss?

  1. People are and always will be stupid. Or at least a certain proportion is. It’s frustrating that they are allowed to vote. What the hell basis do they use for deciding? Who is prettier? Who is the right party because that’s how their daddy and granddaddy voted? Guh. Sigh.

    • See, as far as voting goes: I really do think everyone should be able to vote and should vote. I think voting should be as easy as possible (and that Election Day should be a federal holiday). Because, you’re right, some segment of the population is stupid and always will be. That can’t be an obstacle for voting. It’s the 45% that is really throwing me here. That seems incredibly high. Is it just on this issue (Obamacare)? Politics in general? I’d be curious to see rates of pop culture knowledge v. political knowledge. Do more people know if Brad Pitt is married (and if so to whom) than know about the Supreme Court ruling on ACA? That would at least point to some kind of answer (i.e. people seek out the “news” they care about).

  2. Whoo hoo! I also went 10 for 10.

    People tend to believe anything they hear, especially if it conforms to what they want to believe. The lack of critical thinking abilities in this country are appalling.

    In fact, I saw a column the other day listing one of the Party planks for the Texas State Republicans… It was to eliminate the teaching of critical thinking skills (they called it something like “fighting authority.”) That’s chilling right there… that they want to institutionalize the act of listening to and believing everything you’re told, when it comes from an authority (parents, government, etc.)

    The fact that any group thinks it’s laudable to prevent citizens from learning how to think and tells you all you need to know about said group.

  3. 10 for 10. But I wasn’t confident about a couple of them. Don’t forget the percentage of Americans who only watch Fox News and believe everything they hear there, believing they are informed. (See several of my family members if you need research.)

    • Even given the Fox-heads (my dear FIL is one, also), aren’t they interested in checking out the real story? Don’t they understand they probably aren’t getting the straight dope (so to speak)? And if not, why not? Media’s fault? Education system’s fault? Why do more people know about Snooki and her impending child than the fact that the Supreme Court ruled on a Very Important Law?

  4. Thanks for posting this. Just last night I was saying to my husband that I was not sure about all the details (having read different info in different places), but it turns out I was fairly well-informed (9 out of 10). The only reason I missed the one I did was because my older, normally very well-informed bro told me that all businesses would be required to offer health insurance, which I did not think was the case.

    As for people being ignorant, I recall when this was first being discussed, someone, somewhere said there were over 1,000 page to read. There was no way I was going to do that, but I did try to read what I could from different sources. I actually get a lot of info from AP, which I can read via FiOS while watching TV. Not sure if there is a slant there.

    • Most media organizations do have bias, some minor, some major. I would say the AP is fairly balanced in general. I would cite CNN here, too, but they effed up coverage of this very issue because of the 24-hour media machine. I rely on sites like Politifact and FactChecker.org to, you know, check the facts. The latter site is probably more even-handed in the statements it checks.

  5. I got 6/10 and the four I got “wrong” I answered “I don’t know” to. When I was a teen I was a total news junkie. I was VERY informed about current events, I could list all the supreme court justices and cabinet members, but I was constantly stressed out about the news. Now I only read news stories if they get tweeted or posted to facebook. and sometimes I listen to the news on NPR.

    I limit my news intake for the sake of my mental well being. It’s easy to stew about the state of the country (whether you’re on the right or left – I happen to be somewhere in the middle.) and I know I could easily become obsessed/depressed about it all. It’s not that I don’t care but I feel like there’s not much I can do about it so what’s the point in stressing myself out about it?

    • I totally understand where you are coming from, Elisabeth. I would answer “not much I can do about it” with, “You can — not *you* specifically, the general you — by educating yourself on the issues, and voting for what matters to you.” I think the fact that you went and took the quiz, and were honest about it says a lot about your willingness to examine the facts, and decide how you want to move forward from there. I hope more people are willing to do the same.

      Some people are going to have their pet issues (usually hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage) on both sides. I tend to look into economic issues, and I may vote for someone whom I think has my economic interests in the forefront of his or her platform. For example, in PA, there are a lot of pro-life Democrats who try to create laws and policy that I feel benefit the lower and middle class. I don’t vote for them because they are against abortion, I vote for them because I think they will do things to make education available and affordable to my children (for example).

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