Click on graph to see it full size.
Opinion polling companies don't like to ask members of the public questions that have factual answers because the results tend to be so dire that they raise the unwanted question: Why are we being paid to ask people their opinions on things they apparently know nothing about? However, Pew, which is a not-for-profit, recently asked 1,000 adults a series of multiple choice questions about politics. In fact, they weren't even multiple choice questions. They were more like Couple Choice Questions, because the only answers were:
- A. The Republican Party
- B. The Democratic Party
As Audacious Epigone points out, you can take an abbreviated 13-question version of Pew's News IQ Quiz online here, and then see how you did versus the nationally representative sample. I'm not going to give away any questions before you take the test, but these are not hard questions and my getting 13 out of 13 does not reflect anything special about my knowledge of political history and current events.
What's striking is that 35% of the public got only six or fewer right out of 13, which is worse than random guessing.
Overall, Republicans did somewhat better than Democrats, men better than women, and the old better than the young. Pew did not report racial breakdowns. (Here's Pew's write-up of the results.)
In defense of the 35%, respondents weren't forced to guess, and many correctly admitted "I Don't Know" to various questions. Also, some of the questions about party ideology were de facto reading comprehension questions, with more twists and turns in the grammar than is advisable when making up a survey.
But, still ...