The depth and breadth of American ignorance continues to be plumbed by the researchers at Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, and the sounding is shallow.
This week Pew reports Americans are supremely ignorant of the U.S. Supreme Court, nine of the most powerful individuals in the nation, people who determine who will be president, who may speak freely, when your property can be stolen by the government and who may be freed from jail or stay locked up.
Among other questions, the public was asked who is the chief justice of the court. It was a multiple guess quiz and still 53 percent did not know. Only 28 percent guessed John Roberts, while fully 4 percent thought the chief justice is Nevada’s own Harry Reid, a name frequently in the news because he is the Senate majority leader.
Some people thought Thurgood Marshall, who has been dead for 17 years, is the chief justice and others picked John Paul Stevens, who is retiring and being replaced by Elena Kagan. Another Pew survey in May found 57 percent knew little or nothing about Kagan.
As for the rulings of the court, the public is clueless and wrong. In February, at the height of the controversy just 19 percent said they had heard a lot about the high court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. But 68 percent disapproved of the ruling and only 17 percent approved of the ruling, which restored free speech rights to corporations and unions by canceling portions of the McCain-Feingold Act.
They failed to ask a significant question: How many thought the ruling failed to go far enough? I suspect that would be me, Clarence Thomas and a couple of anarchists.