Can you locate the country of Ukraine in the world map below?
Here’s a hint:
The southernmost part of Ukraine is the Crimea peninsula (that recently was annexed by Russia). The peninsula juts out into the Black Sea.
If you correctly located Ukraine where the red star is in the map below, you are among a very select minority of Americans — 16% or one out of every six Americans.
As they reported in The Washington Post of April 7, 2014, the trio conducted a national survey on March 28-31 on what action Americans wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine. The respondents were also asked to locate Ukraine by clicking on a high-resolution world map (see below).
As you can see from the above map, there are Americans so ignorant that they actually think Ukraine, a former republic of the Soviet Union, is in Africa or Australia or South America or, worst of all, in the United States of America!
Here are the survey’s findings:
- About one in six (16%) Americans correctly located Ukraine, clicking somewhere within its borders.
- Most thought that Ukraine was located somewhere in Europe or Asia.
- 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.
- In general, younger Americans tended to provide more accurate responses than their older counterparts: 27% of 18-24 year olds correctly identified Ukraine, compared with 14% of 65+ year-olds.
- Men tended to do better than women, with 20% of men correctly identifying Ukraine and 13% of women.
- Interestingly, members of military households were no more likely to correctly locate Ukraine (16.1% correct) than members of non-military households (16% correct).
- Self-identified Independents (29% correct) outperformed both Democrats (14% correct) and Republicans (15% correct).
- College graduates (21% correct) were more likely to know where Ukraine was than non-college graduates (13% correct), but even 77% of college graduates failed to correctly place Ukraine on a map.
Most disturbing of all is this finding:
Ignorance about Ukraine is correlated with aggressiveness toward Ukraine.
The less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene militarily.
As Dropp, Kertzer, and Zeitzoff put it: “the further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests.”
This clearly is not a situation where ignorance is bliss. Rather, when the citizens of a democratic republic are willingly ignorant, they become prey to demagogues. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his 1787 letter to Edward Carrington:
“If once they [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.”