The Less Americans Know About Ukraine, the More Likely They Advocate Intervention


This should be rather obvious, but a recent study shows that the less informed you are, the worse your policy recommendations are likely to be. Specifically, you are much more likely to advocate U.S. military intervention in Ukraine if you’re also someone who can’t find Ukraine on a map.

Washington Post:

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

Only about 16 percent of Americans can locate Ukraine on a map. Some respondents placed Ukraine “in Brazil or in the Indian Ocean.” Yeesh.

Anyone surprised by this should really pick up Bryan Caplan’s book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. “In theory, democracy is a bulwark against socially harmful policies,” Caplan writes. “In practice, however, democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies that are damaging.”

One thing I would add is that there is a reason uninformed opinions swing in the pro-war direction, rather than the non-intervention direction. It’s not as if a blank slate just magically tends toward greater U.S. military intervention. The uninformed get bits and pieces of information from a press corps that largely serves to amplify the hawkish rhetoric of politicians in Washington and from cable news anchors (who, I believe, are often as uninformed as their viewers). If you’re not going to start a university-level research project on some pressing issue of either foreign or domestic policy, you defer to these filtered sources. The fact that we end up with still very uninformed people whose lack of knowledge is highly correlated with a pro-war position should tell us something about the nature of the press and of cable news.

8 thoughts on “The Less Americans Know About Ukraine, the More Likely They Advocate Intervention”

  1. The less Americans knew about Iraq location, more they thought of Iraq being the enemy of USA which needed to be eliminated. The same sanity is accurate here, most American don't have a clue that USG been at war for last 60 years, most Americans didn't know about Vietnam war well into the war, until when killed and injured solders started coming home by the thousands, even though the news agencies started publishing the footage of massacre committed by USA militarism Americans didn't care, they just changed the channel or turned the page. The problem with that is the fact in social psychological warfare which advocates for Americans to act and live as an individual-individualism, this kind of living is known to be the idea in a controlled social system where the people's freedom always been the target of unknown, such fear limits the mind involving more people whom are not interested to know., as long as I don't get shoot at, as long as the matter is not about my economy, as long as is over there and not here and etc, the matter becomes irrelevant to the individual.

    At this moment of time 70-80% of Americans wouldn't know where Syria is or who are these terrorists, where they are from or why USG is involved, during Yugoslavia, Balkan war 80-90% of Americans didn't know where or what Yugoslavia, Balkan war was about and so on, but by know they have learned that Islam is bad because they are killing each other and occasionally killing Christians so they must be very bad, when McCain poses with Saudis barbarians, they must be good, otherwise McCain wouldn't have photo with these people, here, people don't recognize corruption unless is about money, they simply don't have the ability to recognize the political corruption.

    In regard to Ukraine, Americans interests is only focused on names, Russia and Russia, now if there is a Ukraine, they don't know what or where it is, that is not their concern, they have heard the name Russia, but they haven't a clue! now if your say, Russian federation, they would think that there is another country called Russian federation. Som of them even see Russia from Alaska and think: that's the enemy of Americans freedom, in reality it should be said, that's Russia, we can see it from here, Russia is the enemy of American individualism, but what about Russian federation?

  2. This anti-Russian/Soviet hysteria is deeply imbedded into the consciousness of most Americans. When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, the media propaganda was even greater than today. Remember "duck and cover" and bomb shelters? Weren't these commies all Christian-hating atheists? There was even a bumper-sticker that read "kill a commie for Christ." There was hysteria because the Soviets beat us into space with Sputnik, a hyped up missile gap (actually the missile gap was hugely in our favor), the Iron Curtain behind which there was no freedom, loyalty oaths, and on and on. It takes much reading and thought to get beyond these lies. Most Americans have been either to ignorant or too apathetic to think for themselves.

  3. "…..nature of the press and of cable news"…..not to mention the nature of the American education system….

  4. The Obama administration has been slowly – and very quietly – peppering the U.S. military throughout the continent and putting hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of government contractors to build the necessary infrastructure for a permanent U.S. military presence.

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