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America the Weird – the Lunatic 20%


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#1 Lex

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 05:58 PM

From time to time you’ll read a poll result that just floors you – something to the effect of “25% of Americans believe in leprechauns.” You rub your eyes and think “That can’t be right. That poll must have been flawed in some way. Nobody could be that stupid.”

Yes they can. A long time ago I noticed polls like that weren’t outliers – they were consistent. Between 20% and 25% of the American population is either profoundly ignorant or outright nuts. Not eccentric, not a little bit weird. Nuts.

It goes way beyond the political stuff. These people are the Renaissance men of lunacy.

You probably think I’m exaggerating. I wish that were the case. Let me give you some examples.


One out of five Americans believe in alien abductions.
http://www.huffingto...elieve_In_Alien


20% of the population cannot locate America on a map.
http://www.huffingto...nt_Identify_The


24% of Americans don’t know who the US declared independence from

When Americans are asked to identify the country from which America gained its independence, 76% correctly name Great Britain. A handful, 2%, think America's freedom was won from France, 3% mention some other country (including Russia, China, and Mexico, among others named), while 19% are unsure.
http://www.gallup.co...dge-levels.aspx


18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth
http://www.gallup.co...dge-levels.aspx


21% of Americans believe in witches
http://www.gallup.co...paranormal.aspx


22% of Americans Think the World Will End in Their Lifetime
http://gawker.com/59...-their-lifetime


More than a third of Americans believe the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are in the “end times” described in the New Testament -- a period of turmoil preceding Jesus' Second Coming and the end of the world.
http://www.religionn...s-in-extreme-we


AP Poll Finds More Americans Believe Obama Is Jewish Than Muslim
18% of Americans think Obama is Jewish while 10% believe he’s Muslim.
http://www.mediaite....sh-than-muslim/
"I don't understand what's wrong with thinking of correlation as a pricing convention the way one thinks of Black-Scholes vol. I mean, vol curves aren't "real" anyway, but nobody uses local vol models to price vanilla options." - Taion
 
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#2 Orik

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:04 PM

92% of Americans believe in god.
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#3 Wilfrid

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:07 PM

Very smart people have believed in God. Profound ignorance and stupidity are kind of different.

#4 Lex

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:08 PM

92% of Americans believe in god.

And 20% percent believe in the Corn God who makes the fields fertile and who must be appeased by human sacrifice every spring.
"I don't understand what's wrong with thinking of correlation as a pricing convention the way one thinks of Black-Scholes vol. I mean, vol curves aren't "real" anyway, but nobody uses local vol models to price vanilla options." - Taion
 
"But this is blatant ultracrepidarianism on my part." - Taion

I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.

"once the penis came out, there was discussions as to why we didn't order the testicles" - Daniel describing a meal in China

#5 Daniel

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:09 PM

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in angels
Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#6 GordonCooks

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:09 PM

Being the pessimistic person I am, I think the numbers are higher.....

On my street
In the supermarket checkout
While driving
etc, etc, etc

I, of course, would also fall under the lunatic category for my lack of general knowledge regarding current sport icons and pop music.
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#7 Lex

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:15 PM

That 20% to 25% figure keeps popping up again and again. I've seen it show up for years. It's not a coincidence. I suspect that the same people hold crazy positions about a whole variety of issues.

I'll update this thread when I see the next poll result. You can bet there will be lots more.
"I don't understand what's wrong with thinking of correlation as a pricing convention the way one thinks of Black-Scholes vol. I mean, vol curves aren't "real" anyway, but nobody uses local vol models to price vanilla options." - Taion
 
"But this is blatant ultracrepidarianism on my part." - Taion

I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.

"once the penis came out, there was discussions as to why we didn't order the testicles" - Daniel describing a meal in China

#8 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:18 PM

That 20% to 25% figure keeps popping up again and again. I've seen it show up for years. It's not a coincidence. I suspect that the same people hold crazy positions about a whole variety of issues.

I'll update this thread when I see the next poll result. You can bet there will be lots more.

I suspect that 20% is pretty consistent across developed world populations. Just that what they are crazy about varies.

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"


#9 Orik

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:21 PM

Very smart people have believed in God. Profound ignorance and stupidity are kind of different.


I'm sure some very smart people believe we're living in the end times too. Similarly grounded.

I think the 20% figure is an artifact of the way these questions are formulated.

Take some fringe belief or something you'd expect "almost anyone" to know, pose it to some people in such a way that the negative answer will include the confused/not sure contingent, get to 20% and you've got a headline.

"5% don't know who the US got its independence from" doesn't sound impressive.

"45% of African Americans don't know who the US got its independence from" sounds racist.

eta: that's from Lex's link:

  • 85% of men compared to only 69% of women know that America's freedom was won from England
  • 80% of whites vs. 54% of blacks answered correctly
But 20%... gee, there are a lot of ignorant crazies out there. Posted Image
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#10 Lex

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:25 PM

I think the 20% figure is an artifact of the way these questions are formulated.

I could believe that about one or two polls but that 20% figure has held up consistently for years.

Is there a way I could trick you into saying that the sun revolves around the earth?

ETA - If 20% of the population can be "tricked" into giving jackass answers it sort of proves my point.
"I don't understand what's wrong with thinking of correlation as a pricing convention the way one thinks of Black-Scholes vol. I mean, vol curves aren't "real" anyway, but nobody uses local vol models to price vanilla options." - Taion
 
"But this is blatant ultracrepidarianism on my part." - Taion

I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.

"once the penis came out, there was discussions as to why we didn't order the testicles" - Daniel describing a meal in China

#11 Stone

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:27 PM

It's not a trick. The sun does revolve around the Earth.

#12 Orik

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:31 PM


I think the 20% figure is an artifact of the way these questions are formulated.

I could believe that about one or two polls but that 20% figure has held up consistently for years.

Is there a way I could trick you into saying that the sun revolves around the earth?

ETA - If 20% of the population can be "tricked" into giving jackass answers it sort of proves my point.


Well, based on your link 16% of Germans thought it was that way, and another 10% didn't know. 19% of Brits thought it was that way and 14% didn't know, so by comparison Americans seems to be lagging. Posted Image
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#13 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:34 PM


Very smart people have believed in God. Profound ignorance and stupidity are kind of different.


I'm sure some very smart people believe we're living in the end times too. Similarly grounded.

I think the 20% figure is an artifact of the way these questions are formulated.

Take some fringe belief or something you'd expect "almost anyone" to know, pose it to some people in such a way that the negative answer will include the confused/not sure contingent, get to 20% and you've got a headline.

"5% don't know who the US got its independence from" doesn't sound impressive.

"45% of African Americans don't know who the US got its independence from" sounds racist.

eta: that's from Lex's link:

  • 85% of men compared to only 69% of women know that America's freedom was won from England
  • 80% of whites vs. 54% of blacks answered correctly
But 20%... gee, there are a lot of ignorant crazies out there. Posted Image

actually if you've really primed the answerer correctly getting only 20% to agree to something insane is sort of impressively low.

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"


#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:36 PM

100% of my current Congresswomen thought the Dutch held slaves in Brooklyn in 1898.

(This is the seat once held by Shirley Chisholm, no less.)
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#15 splinky

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 06:37 PM


Very smart people have believed in God. Profound ignorance and stupidity are kind of different.


I'm sure some very smart people believe we're living in the end times too. Similarly grounded.

I think the 20% figure is an artifact of the way these questions are formulated.

Take some fringe belief or something you'd expect "almost anyone" to know, pose it to some people in such a way that the negative answer will include the confused/not sure contingent, get to 20% and you've got a headline.

"5% don't know who the US got its independence from" doesn't sound impressive.

"45% of African Americans don't know who the US got its independence from" sounds racist.

eta: that's from Lex's link:

  • 85% of men compared to only 69% of women know that America's freedom was won from England
  • 80% of whites vs. 54% of blacks answered correctly
But 20%... gee, there are a lot of ignorant crazies out there. Posted Image

but what if all those blacks answered lincoln or the civil war? american blacks had to wait almost an extra hundred years for freedom on paper and yet the struggle continues...

“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. 'Oh, no!', I said, 'Disneyland burned down.' He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.”
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