Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson may be taking surveys a bit too seriously, according to University of Maryland President John S. Toll.

While discussing American education during the Iowa Republican debate in Des Moines Friday night, former television evangelist Robertson warned that "we're becoming both functionally illiterate" and "culturally illiterate."

"We surveyed some students at the University of Maryland and we asked one student, 'Could you tell us what . . . countries the United States fought in World War II?'" Robertson said. "They said, 'Yes, we fought Korea, we fought Pearl Harbor and we fought the Spanish.' "

Although Robertson apparently intended to hit home with the remark, it only hit Toll's funny bone when the statement was read to him.

"I think it shows that University of Maryland students have a sense of humor," Toll said. "I don't have any information about the survey, but it sounds to me like the students were having a little fun responding to the question . . . .

"With any serious measure of students' abilities, such as graduate record examinations, they've received excellent scores. The University of Maryland this year had a record amount of students {103} on the academic honor roll of NCAA."

Few details about Robertson's survey were available, aides said. Barbara Gattullo, a staff member at the Americans for Robertson headquarters in Chesapeake, Va., said the survey may have been conducted "up to two years ago by Christian Broadcasting Network, or possibly by the '700 Club.' "

Benton Miller, a publicity official for CBN, said he has heard Robertson make several references to the survey but was not sure when it was taken or by whom. "It may have been done in connection with a field shot, a man-on-the-street survey for the '700 Club,' " Miller said. "I'm just not sure."

The debate broadcast was not heard in southeastern Virginia, where Robertson built his religious broadcasting empire, according to television officials.

Korea was occupied by Japanese troops during most of World War II. Pearl Harbor was the site of the U.S. Navy base attacked Dec. 7, 1941, by Japanese warplanes, beginning the war in the Pacific Ocean. Spain was a neutral country during the war.