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The amazing number of people who know nothing about the health-care ruling

at 03:04 PM ET, 07/03/2012

One of the most common mistakes made in political reporting is to assume that average voter is following the daily news cycle as closely as we are. He or she isn’t.


This Oct. 8, 2010, photo shows the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court at the Supreme Court. Seated from left are Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing from left are Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
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.

 
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