Who are the war mongers calling for the US to take military action in Ukraine? Those with the least knowledge of Ukraine’s place in the world, according to a recent study.
When Kyle Dropp from Dartmouth College, Joshua D. Kertzer from Harvard University and Thomas Zeitzoff Princeton University were sampling the US public relative to their attitudes on Ukraine actions, they did so with a twist. In their March 28-31 survey, they not only asked what people thought the appropriate US response should be to Russian troops entering Crimea, they asked participants in the study to point out the country on a map – and found a stunning correlation.
Least informed favor violent response
Those people who were least likely to find Ukraine on a map were the most likely to back a US military response.
When asking 2,066 Americans what action the US should take, the survey also asked respondents to point to Ukraine on an interactive map. The study found that only one in six accurately identified Ukraine on the map. This lack of geographic knowledge correlated to their preference for a military response.
Cost of intervention decreases support
“Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia, but the median respondent was about 1,800 miles off — roughly the distance from Chicago to Los Angeles — locating Ukraine somewhere in an area bordered by Portugal on the west, Sudan on the south, Kazakhstan on the east, and Finland on the north,” a report in the Washington Post noted. The report noted that when the cost of intervention was considered the percentage of those who favored intervention dropped.
Who was most accurate at identifying Ukraine? Younger Americans, age 18-24, were accurate 27% of the time while those 65 years and older were only 14% likely to know Ukraine’s location, under the average. Political independents, 29% correct, outperformed traditional Republicans and Democrats, who were 15% and 14% accurate, both under the national average. What’s most surprising is that 77% of college graduates failed to locate Ukraine on a map, the report noted, which was only slightly better than the percentage of Americans who told Pew that President Obama was Muslim in 2010.
The study found that the further respondents inaccurately located Ukraine the more hardened they were to favor a military response. In other words, the closer someone located Ukraine to Los Angeles, the more they favored war.
In the absence of an informed public, elites drive agenda
Does the ability to identify Ukraine on a map really matter? Previous research on the topic from the book Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy would suggest yes. The ability to have proper background information on an issue can influence Americans’ attitudes about the kind of policies they want their government to carry out, the report noted, and importantly has an influence on the ability of elites to shape that agenda. The less informed the public, the more significant the role elites play in determining the government’s path.