Seven percent is actually a pretty low number, and it’s not clear that it really matters whether people know where chocolate milk comes from or not. Some of the seven percent is likely caused by respondents being confused about the survey rather than genuinely ignorant (though some also probably got the correct answer by guessing). Even well-designed surveys have measurement errors that affect a small percentage of respondents.
Most of this ignorance is not the result of stupidity or lack of information. It is in fact largely rational behavior. We all have limited time, energy, and attention, and so can learn only a small fraction of all the information out there. It makes sense for us to focus on that which is likely to be useful or interesting. For many people, large swathes of basic political and scientific facts don’t qualify.
UPDATE: The photo originally posted with this article actually depicts a brown bull, rather than a cow. I was misled by the lack of horns. But it turns out not all bulls have horns. I have now replaced it with a picture of an actual brown cow.
I don’t claim to have much knowledge of cows or bulls or much skill in telling them apart, and the photo snafu certainly proves that I am no expert on those subjects! Regardless, the main point of the post stands. Public ignorance about the origins of chocolate milk is not a big deal. But some other kinds of ignorance are.
UPDATE #2: It may be worth noting that 48 percent of respondents to the survey admitted they simply don’t know where chocolate milk comes from, a much larger figure than the 7 percent who said it comes from brown cows. Still, I think there is little cause for concern about this result, because it’s not clear why it matters whether people know how chocolate milk is produced. Most people don’t know much about the production process for the vast majority of the products they consume. It’s not a significant problem unless it leads them to support harmful or counterproductive public policies or ignore some significant safety risk.