”The verdict is stunningly, depressingly clear: most people know very little about politics, and the distribution behind that statement has changed very little if at all over the survey era.”

George Bishop and his colleagues at the University of Cincinnati dramatized this point in their study of attitudes toward the ”Public Affairs Act of 1975.” Asked for their opinion of the act, large percentages of the public either supported or opposed it, even though no such act was ever passed. In 1995, The Washington Post celebrated the ”twentieth unanniversary” of the nonexistent act by asking respondents about its ”repeal.” Half the respondents were told that President Clinton wanted to repeal the act; the other half were informed that the ”Republican Congress” favored its repeal. The respondents apparently used these cues to guide their answers, without recognizing the fictional character of the entire endeavor.