Americans Pretend to be Smarter Than They Really Are


If you were to ask ye-average-American we’d probably tell you we pay attention to politics. We might even say we pay more attention to US politics than we do so any other news story. In fact, that’s what we told Pew Research in a new poll that came out on April 29. 

According to Americans here’s how our political interests pan out: 


The poll was conducted April 25-28 with 1,003 participants. The respondents were asked to rank the news stories they paid the most attention to over the past two months. Looking at the above graph we see that most Americans paid attention to the Boston bombing, gun control, North Korea, the economy and the sequester. The Atlantic's Philip Bump looked at Google Trends during that same time period to find out how true those rankings actually were. What he found out is that we may not be as interested in politics as we say we are.

Those polled in the Pew study said that the NCAA was the third least important issue to them, is that true? The Atlantic removed the Boston bombing from the search in order to gauge the veracity of how Americans ranked the rest of issues that were most important to them. Far from being the third least important issue, the NCAA looked to be very important to Americans.

Here is another look at the NCAA compared against other issues that American's said they paid attention to over the past couple months. For this comparison, I searched for NCAA, gun control, sequester, Syria and the U.S. economy. The U.S. economy doesn't appear on the chart because it was not searched for enough. 

We might like to think that we are concerned with things politically but our search habits reveal a completely different picture. The Pew study was conducted as a way to gauge our interest in Syria related news. That definitely looks to be one area we aren't lying about, we aren't really interested in that at all. 


Still, no loosely politically related story or search term can compete with our interest in sports. 

Top Google Trends from the past few days:

While the study is obviously not indicative of all Americans, it does highlight some interesting facets of the American political landscape and where we see ourselves within it.