Pew Research Center: Republicans More Knowledgeable Than Democrats (Again) Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, August 23 2012
This year's results match previous Pew surveys showing the same dramatic Republican/Democrat disparity.

On average, Republican voters fare somewhat better than Democratic voters (7.8 versus 6.9 questions correct) on the twelve-question knowledge quiz.”

“Somewhat better?” 

Not exactly.  Given an eleven-to-one disparity, “significantly better” would be more accurate. 

The preceding quote of questionable accuracy comes from Pew Research Center, referring to its latest “News ID Quiz.”  Each year, Pew conducts a survey of public knowledge, which it then dissects according to various demographic factors such as age, gender and party affiliation.  In this year’s edition, Pew quizzed 1,010 adults (including 771 registered voters) between July 26 and 29 on a series of twelve questions relating to the 2012 campaign. 

Those twelve questions covered such topics as which candidate favors raising taxes on businesses and individuals earning over $250,000, which party controls the House of Representatives, who is Chief Justice of the United States, which candidate is pro-life and which candidate favors gay marriage.  Then, under the sub-heading “Partisan Differences in Knowledge,” Pew itemized how Republicans and Democrats fared on each issue. 

Here’s how Pew opened its summary:  “As the presidential campaign enters its final three months, most voters say they already know what they need to know to form a clear impression of the candidates.”  When it comes to party affiliation, however, it appears that one side maintains a clear advantage in terms of knowing what it needs to know in order to cast an informed vote. 

Namely, as referenced above, Republicans outscored Democrats on fully eleven of the twelve tests of knowledge. 

By 22 percentage points, Republicans were more able to identify the party in control of the House, and they outscored Democrats by double-digits when it came to recognizing Chief Justice John Roberts and naming Massachusetts as the state where Mitt Romney served as governor.  But Republicans also performed better on questions relating to Democratic figures and official positions.  For instance, Republicans outscored Democrats 80% to 71% in identifying Illinois as the state Barack Obama represented in the Senate, and they were even more able to identify Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s own Vice President.  The only question on which Democrats outperformed Republicans, by just 6%, asked, “Which presidential candidate supports allowing many illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country?” 

Pew proceeded to say something interesting, which perhaps betrayed its own ideological bias. 

Specifically, the knowledge difference between older and younger voters was essentially the same as the difference between Republicans and Democrats.  Older voters also outperformed younger voters on eleven of twelve questions, and by an average of 1.3 percentage points compared to the similar .9 differential between Republicans and Democrats.  But Pew described that older/younger distinction differently.  “In general,” Pew stated, “older voters are better informed about the election than are voters under the age of 35.” 

Not an enormous difference, perhaps, but somewhat revealing. 

Regardless, this year’s results match previous Pew surveys showing the same dramatic Republican/Democrat disparity. 

In their 2011 survey, respondents were asked a series of multiple-choice questions, as well as challenges involving maps, photographs and symbols.  For example, respondents were asked to identify international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.  The result?  Republicans outscored Democrats on every single one of 19 questions. 

Similarly, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions on Pew’s 2010 quiz, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12. 

And Pew isn’t the only left-leaning organization to acknowledge that result. 

In a 2010 the New York Times headline read, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.”  According to the Times survey, Tea Party supporters were more likely to possess a college degree than their counterparts (23% to 15%), and also more likely to have completed post-graduate studies (14% to 10%).  They were also more likely to have completed “some college” by a 33% to 28% margin, and substantially less likely to have not completed high school than non-supporters (3% versus 12%) or possess only a high school degree (26% versus 35%).  

Those results surely caused widespread indigestion in cafes across New York’s Upper West Side. 

Democrats routinely attempt to portray their Republican opposition as uninformed or evil, but consecutive survey results spanning several years render the “uninformed” accusation implausible.  Which might explain the unseemly onslaught of “Romney and Ryan are evil” efforts we’re now witnessing from the Obama campaign.