How informed are we?



Are Americans apathetic about current events? Do we rely on social media for our news?

Ka ‘Ohana recently conducted a poll on campus to see if these concerns were true. Sixty-two students were given questions and asked NOT to use their mobile devices to look up answers. The idea for the poll stemmed from a recent article by journalist Glenn Greenwald about how the majority of Americans seem to have become detached from the political system.

In his article, he highlighted recent polls:

  • An Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) poll in September 2014 showed that only 36 percent of Americans could name the three branches of government.
  • In 2011, the APPC’s poll discovered that just 15 percent could name the chief justice of the Supreme Court, while nearly a third knew Randy Jackson was a judge on “American Idol.”
  • A 2010 Pew poll discovered that 41 percent of Americans were unable to name the current vice president of the United States.

Greenwald also points out how the media plays a role in an uninformed, apathetic American public by showing an MSNBC news clip of host Andrea Mitchell interrupting former Congresswoman Jane Harman during a discussion about NSA programs to report “breaking“ news about Justin Bieber’s arrest.

As for our campus poll, more people could name the Kardashian baby or Paul Walker from the “Fast and Furious” movie than the vice president of the United States.

Here are the results from Ka ‘Ohana’s poll:


What are the three branches of government, and what falls under each branch?
10 people could answer all parts of the question correctly. 12 could name branches, but not what falls under each branch.

(The Legislative branch consists of the Senate and House, known as Congress. The Judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court. The Executive branch consists of the President, his advisors and various departments and agencies.)

Name the Vice President of the U.S.
30 out of 62 could name Joe Biden.

Who is the U.S. Secretary of State?
Only 5 people answered John Kerry.
Some responses given: Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney and John Boehner.

Who is the recently appointed U.S Secretary of Defense? Whom did he replace?
No one could answer this question. Ashton Carter is the new Secretary of Defense. He replaced Chuck Hagel.

Who is the current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives?
5 of 62 people could name John Boehner.

Name one of the current U.S. Senators from Hawaii.
11 people answered correctly. All named Brian Schatz. Many people named retired/deceased senators, or people that are in the House, for example, Tulsi Gabbard.

Name the Mayor of Honolulu.
23 people out of 62 named Kirk Caldwell.

Name a candidate who ran against Obama in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
18 out of 62 people answered Mitt Romney. Many people named candidates from the 2008 election, such as John McCain, Hillary Clinton. One person answered Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate.

Name one of the candidates who is running for the presidency in 2016.
(This is the SECOND most correctly-answered question.)

40 people named either Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. The majority (29) named Clinton. 22 people left this blank or answered incorrectly, such as believing Obama is running.

*As of writing, Jeb Bush had not announced his bid to run, although expected to. Senator Bernie Sanders also announced his bid to run on the Democratic ticket.

Did you vote in the 2012 presidential election? Why or why not?
18 of 62 people voted in the 2012 presidential election. 21 of the 62 people polled who did NOT vote weren’t of age or U.S. citizens (in 2012).


Who is the president of Ukraine? Of Russia?
No one could name Petro Poroshenko as the president of Ukraine.
32 out of 62 people could name Vladimir Putin as the president of Russia.

What is the name of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s baby?
(This was the THIRD most correctly answered question.)
39 out of 62 knew the baby’s name, North.

Who performed during the halftime at the most recent Super Bowl?
(Tied with FOURTH most correctly answered question.)
35 out of 62 people knew the entertainment—either Katy Perry or Missy Elliot.

Why has Ferguson, Missouri been in the news?
(Tied with FOURTH most correctly answered question.)
35 of 62 knew why Ferguson has been in the news, answering either the shooting of Michael Brown or riots due to racial tensions.

Which actor from the “Fast and Furious” movie series died in 2013?
(This was the MOST correctly answered question.)
48 of 62 people answered Paul Walker.

Name the two actors in the movie “The Interview.” What North Korean leader did they assassinate in the film?
This is a two-part question. Most could not answer all three parts correctly (Seth Rogan, James Franco and Kim Jong-un.) Some named the character in the film, “Skylark.” Most people couldn’t spell Kim Jong-un. Some just put “Kim”. Some put the older Kims (il-Sung and Jong-il) as the leader that was portrayed being assassinated in the film.

Who was featured in the documentary “Citizenfour”? What is he known for?
14 out of 62 answered Edward Snowden. Some of those could not answer what he is known for: Disclosing illegal NSA programs by giving documents to journalists.

What Israeli Prime Minister made a controversial speech to Congress in early March?
9 out of 62 answered correctly with Netanyahu.

Who recently left the pop band One Direction?
18 of 62 people named Zayn Malik.

Name the co-founder of Wikileaks who has been living in the Embassy of Ecuador in London under political asylum.
1 person out of 62 answered Julian Assange.

Name the “bromance” on the TV series “The Voice.”
10 out of 62 could name the two “bromancers”, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.

Where do you get your news? What media sources do you actively read?
Facebook was the most named source of news, given by 18 people. Hawaii News Now and CNN came in second.

A wide variety of sources were listed, but most were social media/networking sites rather than actual news organizations.

Here are the top 15 sources given by 62 people:

Facebook -18
Hawaii News Now – 9
CNN – 9
KHON – 7
Instagram – 5

New York Times – 4
Twitter – 3
Fox News – 3
Today Show – 3
Tumblr – 2

Yahoo – 2
Google – 2
Star Advertiser/Newspaper – 2
NPR (National Public Radio) – 2
The Guardian – 1

How are we going stay informed if we limit our “news” to Facebook and Instragram?

by Jessica Crawford, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter