More media, less knowledge

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Apparently, more isn’t better—at least when it comes to information. A recent Pew Research Center study suggests that since the advent of the Information Superhighway, Americans seem to have an even weaker grasp on current events. Yep, our “news IQ” is dropping—in spite of 24-hour news access.

Way back in 1989, California’s current governor was still a year away from making Total Recall, only nerds had personal computers, a “web” was something full of spiders, cable television had a mere 35 channels and radio was broadcast over airways rather than bounced off satellites. Nonetheless, 81 percent of Americans knew that the United States had a trade deficit. Today, only 68 percent are aware of that information—in spite of the fact that the trade deficit has ballooned from $93 million in 1989 to $763.5 million in 2006.

Note the upswing in Americans who know which party controls the U.S. House and the political leanings of the Supreme Court’s chief justice. Perhaps we pay less attention to news, but we’re more partisan about it.

Sources: The Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics