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TOO MANY IGNORANT VOTERS

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Do you know the names of the two senators who represent your state in Washington?

If so, you are better-informed than 75 percent of all adults across the country. Though the average American has had more years of schooling than ever before, Scripps Howard News Service reports that the latest survey finds that the public continues to be lamentably ignorant of basic civic and political information.Conducted by political scientists Michael Delli Carpini of Barnard College and Scott Keeter of Virginia Commonwealth University, the study repeated a dozen questions used in national polls as long ago as 1945.

The results, said Keeter, show that the public is only "marginally better informed today than 40 years ago, and not nearly as much as one would expect given the increases in formal education and availability of television news."

In 1947, for example, only 64 percent of those surveyed correctly identified the Republicans as the party then in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This year only 69 percent rightly answered that the Democrats are now in the majority.

"It is hard to imagine," said Carpini, "if this is the level of information citizens bring to politics, that they have enough context to make informed political decisions."

In a free country, nobody is forced to stay informed about the government. But that is no excuse for willful ignorance.