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Americans say foreign policy knowledge is vital, still flunk quiz

By Virginia Van Natta Tribune News Service

SAN FRANCISCO – Americans overwhelmingly agree that knowledge about geography and foreign policy is important in their lives. You wouldn’t know it by looking at their test scores.

The Council on Foreign Relations and the National Geographic Society commissioned Gallup to survey 2,500 Americans for their thoughts and aptitude on international issues. While seven in 10 respondents said such knowledge was important, just 6% scored an 80% or more on the quiz.

Men answered 60% of the questions correctly, beating the 47% average for women. Men are more consistent followers of news, while women tend to tune in when an important event occurs, the survey found. Seniors are the most avid consumers of international news.

Americans who rely solely on the internet and television to keep up with issues had lower quiz scores than those who said they turned to a variety of media including books, magazines and the radio, the study found.

People who labeled themselves as politically independent scored 3 percentage points higher on the quiz than Democrats (53%) and Republicans (52%).

Trade, illegal immigration and climate change were cited as the top international issues of concern to the respondents.

“People who said climate change was important to them were very knowledgeable on the subject,” said Jeff Jones, Gallup’s research director on the study. “It takes some initiative to be informed.”

Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to include illegal immigration as one of their biggest worries. Conversely, 94% of Democrats and 68% of independents, but only 22% of Republicans, said climate change was a very serious or moderately serious threat, according to the research.

Party politics aside, 76% of Americans said trading with other countries is beneficial and an even greater number (88%) agreed that it’s preferable for the U.S. to act multilaterally, rather than unilaterally, on the world stage.

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