Syria? Turkey? Many Americans Still Unsure

May 17, 2013 Topic: Humanitarian Intervention Region: United StatesSyria Blog Brand: The Buzz

Syria? Turkey? Many Americans Still Unsure

Courtesy of Pew Despite the fact that the conflict in Syria has been raging for over two years, many Americans (some of whom undoubtedly want us to intervene there) fail to accurately identify the country when asked.

Today, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released the results of a January poll indicating that only 50 percent of respondents were able to identify Syria correctly when shaded on a map. Nearly one in five (19 percent) named the country as Turkey (no word on Erdogan's thoughts on this), and 11 percent thought it was Saudi Arabia. Five percent identified it as Egypt, and 15 very, very sad percent found the question too daunting to answer.

For comparison, about 79 percent of people were able to correctly identify the Twitter logo in a recent Pew survey.

While the public's lack of geographical knowledge is somewhat disheartening, more significant is the fact that this lack of basic information does not keep individuals from establishing policy opinions. Only 23 percent of people are unsure about whether the United States should intervene in Syria or not. Given how elementary this type of knowledge seems, it doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest the folks who cannot identify Syria on a map may also lack other extremely basic information that might play into a decision matrix regarding Syrian intervention. The question then becomes, by imparting the most basic knowledge, can the public consensus on Syria sway greatly? And if so, how do those in political power reach the "23 percent"?