It’s about the twitter feed

This story reports the level of misinformation or ignorance about the ACA decision by SCOTUS, but that’s because the majority of young adults don’t watch news, don’t read newspapers, don’t read CNN.com … they rely on their twitter feed — and it’s full — for incoming information. So I would not say this is “staggering stuff.”

The latest poll numbers from the Pew Research Center on the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s health-care law are (yet another) affirmation of that fact.

Forty-five percent — yes 45 percent! — of respondents in the Pew poll either didn’t know what the court had done in regards the health care law (30 percent) or thought that the court had rejected most of the provisions of the law (15 percent).

Let’s just make sure we are all clear: Forty-five percent of people didn’t know about or were misinformed about the most highly publicized Supreme Court case since — at least — Bush v. Gore in 2000 that dealt with the landmark legislative accomplishment of Obama’s first term in office. That is staggering stuff.

Inside the numbers was — not surprisingly — even more eye-opening. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, one of the electoral pillars on which Obama’s 2008 victory was built, 43 percent didn’t know anything about the court ruling, and other 20 percent thought the court had rejected most of the tenets of the law. That means that roughly two in every three young people didn’t know or were mistaken about what happened Thursday at the court.

So, that happened. (For a full demographic breakout on who knew what about the court ruling, scroll down in this post.)

What should you take from the Pew poll? That assuming that the electorate is paying close attention to the political goings-on — even when they are so seemingly high profile as the court ruling on health care — is a mistake.

Most people — especially those who are unaffiliated or independent voters — tend to be relatively low information voters. That is, they don’t have all the facts on an issue — and they don’t really care to find them out.

Sobering for those of us who watch the political machinations on a minute-by-minute basis? Yes. But also very important to remember when writing and analyzing the impact any given event will have on the November election.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://churchlandia.com Scott

    Perhaps those 15% who thought that much of the law was overturned only watched the first hour of news after the judgment came down. The chaos of information that was being called news during that time was abysmal.

  • Thomas

    This is a predictable narrative to claim that young adults are ignorant and don’t understand health care. Truth is almost no one understand what the health care bill will do. Even politicians readily admit they don’t know what is all in the bill (its 2700 pages).

    Its just a cheap shot to even remotely expect young adults (or anyone with a life) to know what the new health care laws will do, when even experts don’t really know yet.

  • Peter F.

    “chalk-full”?

  • scotmcknight

    Peter F, thanks for that one. Can’t say I’d ever seen it spelled out … fixed.

  • scotmcknight

    Thomas, not sure you’re getting “us” off the hook: 45% of those surveyed didn’t really know what happened; among 18-29 yr olds, that number was 43% …

    Now (1) I consider this a significant statistic.
    (2) I’m venturing to suggest that the numbers reflect media-shaped knowledge: many, esp young adults, rely on the twitter feed and that means this info isn’t going through those twitter feeds well.

    Fair enough?

    17 years of teaching college students made me acutely aware that what some of us think is important, because importance is shaped by news coverage, was unknown to the students.

  • Tom F.

    I’m a “young adult” and most of my friends and same-age relatives don’t read the newspaper or watch any TV news. (This is why the news hour on TV is filled with prescription drug advertisements targeted towards older adults. Which, ironically, further implicitly communicates to young adults that this isn’t something meant for them.)

    A few of them read blogs. A few of them have twitter, yes, but the majority are pretty disengaged. I don’t know if the medium is the issue: I doubt that if there were a political news twitter account, that many of them would subscribe to it. (I’m sort of weird, I find twitter very boring.) I honestly don’t know what the issue is; many of them are very involved in volunteering, school, work, and church, so sheer laziness is not a sufficient explanation.

    This is a serious, serious issue for our democracy, and I think we had better start thinking about it and addressing it, or else we might as well sign our democracy over to the teeming factions and numerous special interests.

  • Phil Miller

    I paid very little attention to politics when I was in college. I was an undergrad during the Clinton administration, and, honestly, at the time, I couldn’t care less about it. It was a little bit different back then in the fact that most news outlets were still just getting their feet wet as far as having a web presence, and there wasn’t anything comparable to Twitter or Facebook. So, really, I’m not surprised by these numbers.

    At the present, I consider myself more informed than the average voter, but I still don’t spend a whole lot of time reading news-related sites. I think one thing to consider is that the more ubiquitous something is, the less attention we end up paying to it. We’re drowning in a sea of information. Who really wants to spend all of their time trying to filter a little bit of good from all the bad?

  • Bev Mitchell

    Tom  (6)
    You confess,
    “I’m sort of weird, I find twitter very boring”

    To which I say, you are not weird, you are just ahead of the curve, enlightened even.  I am not weird either, and have never twitted. Did you hear Cafferty’s question to Blitzer one night shortly after twitter was introduced? Wolf was trying to get Cafferty interested. Jack asked, “Tell me Wolf, what kinds of folk tweet?” Went right over his head! It will take a while, but many will be at your side.

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t really get the allure of Twitter either. I don’t have a Twitter account, but I do have Facebook. I don’t really feel a need to have another method for people to share pictures of their lunches with me.

  • Tom F.

    Bev, thanks for the kind words, but I fear I must decline your compliments; comments of this type about the shallowness of twitter would have been comments 10 years ago about the shallowness of blogs, and thus it feels dangerous to become too self-congratulatory about which parts of media we consume and which we hold our noses at.

    On the other hand, I definitely don’t mean to imply that you are weird because you don’t use twitter.

    My main point was that young people are disengaged, and that if twitter did help to get people political information, it would be great, but that’s not what the people I see using twitter are following on it.

    Honestly, I think most young people correctly perceive that politicians are really not interested in what they think or need. For example, Obama talked about lowering college interest rates, and Rommney talks about getting jobs for people after college. But for jaded young adults, who have probably sat through a million advertisements, this just feels too much like one more pitch, and it comes across as not so subtle pandering. Both candidates are inextricably involved in the political and cultural wars of young people’s parents, and I think young people increasingly feel that they don’t really have a dog in that fight. They grew up in broken homes and broken institutions and even broken churches where their parent’s generation would fight and argue, and they quickly learned that not much that they did would really affect those battles.

    But hey, what do I know, I’m just a bit jaded, as these comments surely suggest. If you care about young people getting involved in politics, ask yourself; have I ever asked a young adult what they thought about politics, and if so, have I really listened or did I just write them off as uninformed?

  • Bev Mitchell

    Tom (10),

    You should take the compliment because you are very perceptive, both re your reaction to Twitter and with more extended observations. When Twitter allows reasonable length paragraphs (maybe it does), I may reconsider.

    You suggest the following introspection,
    ” If you care about young people getting involved in politics, ask yourself; have I ever asked a young adult what they thought about politics, and if so, have I really listened or did I just write them off as uninformed.”

    Depends on what kind of politics you refer to. Much of what I have seen of politics is not something I would want anyone to become much involved in – and I’m Canadian where we still say excuse me before applying the knife to the most tender spots.  :)   Seriously, this is a real problem. Twitter is not likely the solution because of the format. But, if it can raise interest in becoming more involved in the real issues (not necessarily politics) that would be great. 

    From time to time, over thirty years of university teaching (biology), I used to refer to current affairs, bring a paper or magazine to class for reference or ask questions like “how many of you have yet developed a real interest in history? The results were not pretty. With respect to the history question, in a class of 300, 18-19 year olds, the number of hands that went up would have discouraged a seasoned evangelist. You are so correct – the problem is huge.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Everyone must be recovering south of the boarder today…..so slow. Since this thread is sort of about tweets, I’ll go against my better judgement and offer one (hope it fits on the screen  :)

    A Catholic asks his Baptist friend: Why is it that Protestants act as if their salvation depends entirely on them being right, and our salvation depends on us agreeing with them? 

  • Tom F.

    Thanks, Bev. By the way, the last part of my comment was intended to be asked to everyone, not just to you. I realized that it may have come across a bit accusatory (Ask yourself…)

  • Bev Mitchell

    Tom,
    Don’t worry. You got the benefit of the doubt, because of the other things you said and the way you said them. If (a few) others would just get it re style of presentation, things would go even better on this blog. It’s already one of the best places on the internet for really discussing issues from a broad evangelical perspective. Most seem to agree with the title of Clark Pinnock’s 1992 book that there is a wideness in God’s mercy – and that he probably has a very well developed sense of humour.
    Blessings,
    Bev


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