Our News IQ: The Fourth of July of what?

How aware are Americans of basic facts, such as what year the United States became independent?Some Americans are having a hard time keeping up with events in the news and struggle to find the right answer to basic questions of our nation’s history. CBS News reported this week only 58 percent of residents know that the United States declared its independence in 1776, according to the Marist poll.

“Twenty-six percent are unsure, and 16 percent mentioned another date,” the poll showed." The awareness numbers were lower for youth.

What’s your news IQ? Ask the Pew Research Center. Every so often Pew posts a series of questions challenging website visitors to test their knowledge of current events. The most recent survey of about 1,000 respondents to a telephone poll was conducted in March.

“The public is generally aware of basic facts about several recent national and international news stories, but is much less knowledgeable about current politics in Washington,” according to Pew.

“Just 38 percent correctly say that Republicans hold a majority of seats in the House – and not in the Senate or the full Congress. Shortly after the midterm elections in November, slightly more (46 percent) knew that the Republicans had a majority only in the House,” the Pew report continued.

“Young people are only dimly aware of the new balance of power in Washington. Just 26 percent of those younger than age 30 think that Republicans have a majority only in the House and 21 percent correctly name [John] Boehner as speaker. About as many (29 percent) name Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.”

Wisely managed communities depend on well-informed citizens. What we know, and don’t know, is a little unnerving according to these recent polls. As public affairs communicators, perhaps we need to take more time explaining how things work, such as government procedures, when it comes to providing backgrounders on important community issues. We cannot assume the audience knows basic facts.