Or do I mean Mitt whom?
On Wednesday, the Pew Center released a poll in which they asked respondents to name as many of the Republican candidates for president as they could. Fifty-four percent could name at least one, and, compared with results of the same question in previous cycles, that’s only a little below average. To me, it’s still pretty pitiful.
Even more depressing — from the point of view of citizenship generally or from the point of view of the two leading candidates for the Repub nomination, just 28 percent of Pew respondents came up with the name of Gov. Rick Perry and just 27 percent named Mitt Romney.
Again, compared with previous cycles (you can glance at all the comparisons on a table as well as Pew’s own summary of the poll results here) this is bad but not the worst ever at comparable moments in previous presidential election cycles.
Noting these poll results this morning for Politico, Alex Burns writes:
“The relatively low degree of familiarity with the Republican field means there’s plenty of room for the candidates to define themselves and each other. It also adds some weight to the Democratic view that President Obama may fare better as his eventual opponent comes into sharper relief.”
All true, I suppose, and also a great example of how everything can be turned into horserace analysis.
But poll results like these always depress me because they rub my nose in how little attention the average citizen pays to the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a self-governing society.
Yes, I’m sure that by the time we get to Election Day 2012, a lot more Americans will know the name of the major party nominees. And I know that this makes me sound like an awful snob or scold or something. And I know that it is self-serving for a career news scribbler to believe this. But I have never been able to talk myself out of the belief that one of the responsibilities of citizenship is to pay some attention to the news. I’ve never fully recovered from the experience of writing a 1998 poll story in which the Strib’s Minnesota Poll asked people to name their two U.S. Senators — Paul Wellstone and Rod Grams at the time. Twenty percent of Minnesotans — Minnesotans for criminy sakes — could name them both.
In 2008 — another presidential election year — a previous Pew Poll found that the portion had risen in every age group who said they had paid attention to none of the 101 ways they might have paid attention to the news on the previous day.
Okay, end of old fogey rant.
By the way, the big outlier in Pew’s history of this question where they ask people to name the presidential candidates in the September of the pre-election year was September of 2008 when 78 percent could name Hillary Clinton as a contender for the Dem nomination and 62 percent could name Barack Obama.
And lastly, I would bet heavily on the proposition that MinnPost readers would do a lot better on this poll question than the public at large. If you’re still reading this, thank you. Now try to get your kids and grandkids hooked on a news habit of some kind.