Jelani Guzman, a fifth-grader at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., works on an English language arts lesson at school Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Silver Lake has begun implementing the national Common Core State Standards for academics. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Inside the Beltway, everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows politics. Outside, of course, it's a far different story -- so much so that folks inside the Beltway need a frequent reminder about just how insular their little bubble is.

Well, here's your latest reminder.

The Pew Research Center polled Americans on 12 topical news questions, asking them to prove that they knew what was going on in the news. They failed, badly -- even though most of the questions were multiple choice.


Here is a recap of things that most Americans do not know:

1) What the government spends most of its money on

It's Social Security, and only 20 percent of people know that. Social Security actually finished third out of four options. Thirty-three percent thought it was foreign aid, while 26 percent thought it was interest on the national debt. So, so very wrong.

2) Who is the chair of the Federal Reserve

It's Janet Yellen. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of people could pluck her name out of four options. Seventeen percent thought it was still Alan Greenspan, who in fairness was Fed chairman for what seemed like a century (though not since 2006).

3) What the unemployment rate is

Even when Pew gave people four options -- 3 percent, 6 percent, 9 percent and 12 percent --  and asked them which it was closest to, just one-third picked the right answer (6 percent). Forty-five percent thought it was either 9 or 12.

4) Who is the prime minister of Israel

Given four options, 43 percent of people didn't even attempt an answer. Slightly less -- 38 percent -- chose the correct answer, Benjamin Netanyahu. One percent thought it was David Cameron, which is funny.

5) What Common Core is

The conservative base is incensed about these curriculum standards for English and math, but only 49 percent of all Americans even have a basic understanding of what Common Core is. That's despite being given four options -- two of which were at least semi-ridiculous ("abdominal exercises" and "a newly developed microprocessor").

6) Where the Ebola outbreak is happening

One would think, given the amount of fear involved, that people would know where the outbreak has taken hold. One would be wrong. Given four options -- Liberia, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan -- just 46 percent correctly cite Liberia. Nearly half as many picked Sudan (21 percent), so it's pretty clear a lot of people who picked Liberia simply guessed the right African country.

But lest you think we're being too hard on the American people, there are some things they know:

  • 73 percent can peg the minimum wage at $7.25
  • 67 percent know the Islamic State has taken hold in Syria and not Kuwait, Egypt or Pakistan
  • 60 percent know what country Ukraine used to belong to -- the Soviet Union

So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.