10 Poll Numbers Revealing What Americans (Don’t) Know

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Polls seem to be everywhere these days. There are instant polls on social media, frequent polls on politicians, etc. The results of some of these polls can be surprising, and even depressing. A National Geographic poll some years ago found that 11 percent of college-age Americans could not locate the U.S. on a world map; half could not find New York State. Granted, that sort of knowledge deficit can be overcome with a GPS, but some poll numbers outline beliefs that can have fatal consequences; deaths from whooping cough have surged in recent years, as many Americans are skipping vaccines because of the alleged relationship to autism. That research has been thoroughly debunked as fraudulent. It’s scary to know some of the things Americans don’t know, at least according to pollsters.

A surprising number of young Americans are not sure the Earth is round, or actually believe it is flat. © YouGov

41 Percent

Americans who believe that humans and dinosaurs lived together

This 2015 YouGov poll found that 14 percent “definitely” believe that is true, while 27 percent believe it is “probably” true. Given this finding, it wouldn’t be surprising if future Americans believe Jurassic Park is a documentary.


25 Percent

People who believe the Sun revolves around the Earth

Every couple of years, the National Science Foundation polls Americans on basic scientific knowledge. The results are always predictably depressing.


33 Percent

People who can’t name even one branch of the U.S. government

The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics survey in 2017 found 27 percent of respondents could name only one branch, while 13 percent named two. Only 26 percent correctly named the executive, legislative and judicial branches.


29 Percent

Americans who believe “an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties”

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll in 2013 found that almost one-third of Americans believed they’d need to take up arms against the U.S. government. That number includes 18 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats.


42 Percent

People who didn’t know Obamacare had been signed into law

Washington politicians spent countless months debating this law before it passed in 2010, which made daily news. Afterward, critics and supporters continued to argue about the law for years. The insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act were widely advertised. Still, a 2013 Kaiser Health Poll found 42 percent of Americans did not know Obamacare had passed.


13 Percent

Americans who believe Elvis Presley is still alive

CBS News conducted this poll for the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death in 2017. If Elvis is still around, he’d be 83 and well past his Heartbreak Hotel days.


58 Percent

Americans who believe vaccines cause autism, or are not sure

A 2015 Gallup Poll found six percent of Americans believe vaccines cause autism, while 52 percent are unsure. The 1998 UK-based study claiming a connection between vaccines and autism has been debunked as fraudulent.


54.3 Percent

Americans who believe the U.S. government is concealing what it knows about 9/11

The National Survey of Fears: Wave 3 poll published in late 2016 found Americans are quite fond of conspiracies. The poll also found that 30 percent of Americans believe there is a government conspiracy behind the AIDS virus. And 33 percent of poll respondents believe the U.S. is concealing information about plans for a one-world government (you know, the whole black helicopters invasion). Oh, and 42.6 percent believe the government is hiding information about alien encounters (OK, if you’ve seen the movie Independence Day or its sequel, this one’s not so hard to understand).


39 Percent

Republicans who believe former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.

Yes, a 2016 Economist/YouGov poll found the “Obama Birther” conspiracy theory is still an issue with many people. Another 28 percent of Republicans answered “Don’t Know.” But 40 percent of Independents don’t believe he was born in the U.S., or aren’t sure. It’s worth noting that as of late 2017, President Donald Trump apparently still questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate, the New York Times reported.


34 Percent

Young Americans who are not sure the Earth is round

A 2018 YouGov poll of more than 8,200 adults found that older Americans overwhelmingly were certain the Earth is round; 94 percent of those 55 and over agreed with the statement, “I have always believed the Earth is round.” Unfortunately, only 66 percent of those ages 18-24 believed that statement. The rest expressed either skepticism, believe the world is flat, or aren’t sure. It hasn’t helped that some high-profile Americans, including Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving, have apparently embraced the “Flat-Earth” theory the past couple of years. That brings to mind the words of the late Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan, who died in 2017 at age 82. The last man to walk on the Moon, Cernan made the following remarks shortly after Apollo 17’s launch. “I know we’re not the first to discover this, but we’d like to confirm … that the world is round,” Cernan told Mission Control.


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