The Knowledge of the American Voter

A key problem with democracy in America is the acute ignorance of the American voter. It takes no genius to understand that voters who know nearly nothing select incompetent candidates who know nothing. We have seen this with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States – a man who knows nothing about American history and who once claimed that Canada burned down the White House in 1814, despite the fact that Canada did not exist until 1867.
If the leader of one’s country is supposed to represent his people, however, then Trump is doing a fabulous job. A poll in 2010 indicated that Americans severely lack basic historical knowledge – half of those surveyed did not know the purpose of the original tea party of the 18th century, ⅓ couldn’t identify during which century the American revolution occurred, and half described the American political system as a “direct democracy” when it is, in fact, a republic. Additionally, 40% of college graduates – who are supposed to be knowledgeable and highly educated – didn’t know Congress has the authority to declare war. This same study found that 28.4% of college graduates could identify James Madison as the father of the Constitution, and half did not know that senators serve six year terms, and representatives serve two year terms.
Is it lack of civics education? Perhaps. However, a WYSU poll conducted in 2008 found that only ⅖ of Americans could name the three branches of government – a fact which is made clear by the news and which is readily taught in schools. The American voter is also completely ignorant of global affairs. Only 29% knew that Indonesia was a Muslim-majority nation (it is the largest Muslim country on Earth) and only 12% knew that foreign aid comprises about 1% of the Federal government’s budget. Given this, it is no small wonder that the rhetoric used by presidential candidates has gradually gotten less complex over the last few decades. 
This can be attributed to the sensationalizing of mainstream, mass media. Turn on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX, and you are instantly bombarded with a series of images, infographics, and statistics which seem informational, but are shown largely in a vacuum, and not connected to serve any main point. Often, this form of media over exaggerates something greatly – for example, the media will cover 10,000 people protesting in New York City, and pundits will eagerly discuss how massive and important this protest is, despite the fact that only .125% of New Yorkers are actually participating in the protest. Additionally, mainstream media now exists to drive home a narrative, rather than tell the truth and let the audience make their own judgement. Opinions, largely liberal ones, made up 85% of MSNBC’s media coverage in 2013, and largely conservative opinions made up 55% of Fox’s media coverage. CNN has been discussing Trump’s collusion with Russia for the past two years – and while this is an important story, many other stories, such as the war in Yemen, have seen no coverage whatsoever. FOX, meanwhile, spent most of 2008-2016 trying to prove that Barack Obama was a Kenyan born, closet Marxist Islamist who wanted to establish a communist dictatorship in the United States.
It has become clear that in order to save America, the American democratic system needs to be fixed. Uneducated and misled voters only lead to corrupt, incompetent do-nothings occupying key positions of power within government. The general lack of knowledge in the United States has become the greatest challenge of our time, and if America fails to overcome this challenge, many negative developments will soon arrive.

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