, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 219-233

“Know-nothings” revisited again

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Analyses of the same NORC poll relied on by Hyman and Sheatsley and a 1994 poll for theTimes Mirror Center for The People & The Press show that sizable portions of the U.S. public were “know-nothings” on both occasions. OLS regressions on both polls show that, although there are slight differences, essentially the same factors affect knowledge of international politics in 1946 and 1994. At bottom, Americans tend to be uninformed about foreign affairs because they are inattentive to events abroad. If it is true, as some students of U.S. foreign policy claim, that public opinion has an important and growing impact on national security policy, widespread public ignorance recalls Lippmann's concern about the “democratic malady.”